The Celtic Literature Collective

The Dream of Paul the Apostle

I.—Sunday is a chosen day, whereon the souls that are in pains rest from their pain through joy. And let all know that it was to Paul the Apostle, and to Michael the Archangel, that God showed hell. And then Paul saw before the gates of hell a fiery oak-grove, and sinners hanging upon the branches, some by the hair of their heads, others by their hands, others by their throats, others by their tongues, and others by their arms. And then Paul saw in another place a furnace burning, and seven flames of divers colours rising therefrom, and many being tortured therein. And around the furnace there were seven plagues. The first was snow, the second fire, the third ice, the fourth blood, the fifth serpents, the sixth lightning, the seventh stench. And to this furnace are sent the souls of sinners that do not perform their penance in this world, some of them weeping, others howling, others lamenting, others seeking their death without being able to obtain it, for a soul dies not eternally. Wherefore hell is an awful place, where there is sadness without joy and pain everlasting, abundance of tears, and lamentation of heart, and great cold, through the burning of souls. There is a wheel of fire there, with a thousand tires of fire thereon, and devils turn it once daily, and at each turn a thousand souls are burnt.

II.—Thereafter Paul saw a terrible river, full of devilish beasts, like fishes in the sea, swallowing the souls of sinners, as wolves devour sheep. And on that river there was a bridge, to which the just souls passed without stumbling, and the souls of sinners fell upon it. In hell there are many evil habitations, as is said in the Gospel: Bind them in bundles to burn them. There like shall be tormented with like, the adulterous with the adulterous, ravishers with procuresses, the iniquitous with the iniquitous. And all walked along that bridge, according to their deserts. And there Paul saw many souls in pain, some of them up to their knees, others up to their navels, others up to their lips, others to their eyelids, others as far as the top of their heads.

III.—Then Paul wept, and asked the angel who these were. Then said the angel: Those that thou seest up to their knees mock at others when they go to churches; and those that thou seest sunk as far as the navel committed the sin of adultery, and did no penance until death. Those that thou seest up to the lips, railed in churches without listening to the words of God, and those that thou seest as far as the eyelids, rejoiced at the downfall of their neighbours. Then he saw a fearful place, full of men and women gnawing their tongues. Those, said the angel to Paul, are the usurers that practised usury and sought it, and were not merciful towards the weak, and therefore they shall he in this torment until the Day of Judgment. Thereafter Paul saw another place with all kinds of torments, and there were maidens there as black as pitch, dressed in clothes as black as pitch, and fiery dragons and serpents, and venomous adders in coils about their necks, and nine devils with fangs and horns of fire upon them, attending to them, and reproaching and saying to them : Know the Son of the Living God, Him that rcdeemeth the world with His precious blood. And then Paul questioned the angel who they were. These, said he, are those that did not observe chastity, and sinned against their relatives, and broke marriage ties, and killed their children, and cast them out as food to the wild beasts or into waters, to drown them, or to any other death, and did not their penance before death.

IV.—Then he saw men and women in fire and ice, the fire burning one half of them, the cold tempering and shrivelling them on the other side. There, said the angel, are those that injured orphans and widows. Then he saw in another place an old man, quailing between four devils, and there he was, weeping and howling. And Paul asked who he was. A negligent bishop, said the angel, is he, who kept not the laws of God, end was not chaste in word or deed or thought, but a deceitful and proud miser, and therefore countless torments shall visit him until the Day of Judgment.

V.—And then said Paul, Alas! alas! alas! woe that they, poor sinners, were born ! And then said the angel to Paul: Why dost thou groan, Paul? Thon hast not yet seen many of the pains of hell. And then he showed him a pit with seven seals thereon. Stand afar off, said the angel, for thou canst not endure the stench of this pit. And when the mouth of the pit was opened, there arose a stench therefrom, so that Paul thought it was worse than all the torments of hell. Whoever falls into this pit, said the angel, there shall be no recollection of him ever before God. Those, said the angel, did not believe in Christ, Him that suffered death for the people of the world, and believed not that He took man’s flesh or was born of the Virgin Mary, and received not baptism in the name of God, and paid no tithes to the churches, and despised their neighbours, and took not the Sacrament of the Body of Christ or His Blood.

VI.—Then Paul saw men and women naked, and worms and adders devouring them, and that, too, one upon the other, like sheep in a fold. And the place where they were was as broad as from the heaven to earth, and he could hear mourning and groaning and weeping like thunder in the air. And Paul looked afar off. and he could see a sinner’s soul bound by seven devils newly taken, at that hour, front the body, while he shrieked and howled while the angels of heaven cried, and said: Alas! alas! poor soul, what didst thou? Yea, answered one of the devils, this is the soul that despised the Commandments of God and His Laws. And then he read a charter, with his sins and evil deeds recorded therein, dooming him to perdition. And the devils took him, and sent him to the uttermost darkness, where there was weeping and chattering of teeth, and sadness without joy. And then said the angel: Believest thou, Paul, that as a man acts in this world he shall have hereafter?

VII.—Then he saw angels bringing the soul of white monk from his body, and sending him to heaven. And then Paul beard the voice of thousands of thousands of angels rejoicing over him, and saying: Oh, most happy soul, be joyful to-day, fur thou hast done the will of God and then they raised the soul before the face of God, to read His good works which He had done. And then Michael brought the soul to paradise, where the angels were receiving the souls of the just; and they gave forth a shout of joy, as if the sun, moon, and heaven, and earth were astir. And then the sinners cried out of their torments and said: Have mercy upon us, Archangel Michael, and do thou, too, blessed Paul the Apostle, intercede for ns with God, for we know that it is through your prayers that heaven and earth are upheld; do ye weep, and we will weep with yon, so that God may have mercy upon you, end God may give you a refuge. And the multitude that were in the torments cried aloud, and Michael and Paul the Apostle cried, and thousands of angels with them, until the cry was heard in the fourth heaven, saying: Lord Christ, have mercy upon the sons of men.

VIII.—And there Paul saw the heavens stirred, and God with a crown upon His head, and the multitude that was in hell shrieking, and saying: Have mercy upon us, Son of the Living God Most High. And then Paul heard a voice saying to them: Why did ye nothing good, so that ye might have asked for blessing and rest? I was placed upon the Cross, and the nails were beaten into My hands, and poison was given Me to drink, and I was pierced with the spear, and I gave Myself up to death for your life, and ye were false, and rapacious robbers, jealous, and proud, and destroyed the churches, and refused tithes, and did every variety of evil, without doing any good, either fast or alms at all.

IX.—And then Michael the Archangel, and Paul the Apostle, and thousands of angels bowed themselves before God, to entreat Him to give rest on Sunday to the souls that were in hell. For the sake of Michael and Paul the Apostle, and My own goodness, said the Lord Jesus, I will give them rest from the hour of noon on Saturday until the first hour on Monday. And then Etyrfal, the doorkeeper of hell, arose from their heads, with Cerebius, his hound, and sorrowed greatly. And the multitude that were in heaven rebelled, and said, one and all : We say that Thou art Son of the Living God, for Thou didst give rest on Sunday itself, and, therefore&, whoever honours Sunday shall share and rest with the angels of heaven.

X.—And then Paul asked the angel: How many torments are there in hell? And the angel said: If there were four thousand and forty. thousand and a hundred thousand people counting the torments of hell, and four tongues of iron in the head of each, they would not hold out in counting the torments of hell; therefore, whoever of us hears the greatness of the torments of unbelieving Christians, and the greatness of the joy of devout and righteous souls, and how much Christ suffered for our sakes, how He lost His blood innocently for love of Christians, we, too, ought to deserve His pleasure, so that we might win everlasting life in the kingdom of the region of heaven. This is why God’s wrath came into your midst, and failure upon your labour and upon the goods ye possess, and the pagan people shall come to place your bodies in bondage and subjection. Because ye do not keep the holy and blessed Sunday; ravening wolves and mad dogs shall multiply amongst you, they shall plunge you in the depths of affliction, and I shall turn away My face from you, and from your dwellings which your hands made. Every kind of evil that ye have done against My holy Church I shall avenge, and I shall give you into the power of aliens, and I shall sink you, as I once sank Sovir and Ovir, which the earth swallowed up alive for their sins. And whoever journeys on the holy Sunday to any other place than My Church (for it is a place to pray), or to pilgrimages of saints, or to visit the sick, or to bury the dead, or to make peace between men at strife, whoso does work other than this, such as shaving hair or beards, or cutting them, or washing heads or clothes, or baking bread, or any other task forbidden of the Catholic Church, on the special day, Sunday, shall not receive from God spiritual blessing, by night or by day, but the curse they have merited, more the pity; and I shall send into their houses diseases unending upon them and upon their children, and plague upon their cattle. And whosoever disputes, or deals treacherously, or engages in strife or unseasonable matters, instead of praying with devout will, in My Name and My Church, I shall send into their midst divers losses manifestly, so that they fail.

XI.—Let all the unbelieving people hearken, and do thou, too, hearken, O unrighteous generation, to Him on Whom thou wilt not believe; short are thy days, and thy days and end draw nigh, and I am forbearing towards earthly sinners, to see if they will turn to true penitence and contrition and Holy Confession. Let all the people of the world hearken, that, for love of Me, they may not grow bold to swear false oaths, or dishonour churches, or commit theft on the holy Sunday. For on that day the Lord rose from the dead to life and ascended into heaven, and sits on the right hand of God the Father Almighty, and thence He shall come to judge the quick and the dead. And in six days God made heaven and earth, and creatures that are therein, altogether, those that are seen and those that are not seen, and on the seventh day He rested from all His labours. And so I will that ye also rest from the works of the world, all, bond and free, and keep the Sunday, from the evening of Saturday until the sun rise on Monday; else I shall curse you before My Father who is in Heaven, and ye shall not reign with Me nor with My angels, in the Kingdom of Heaven most high. And unless ye keep faith towards your sponsors, and keep Sunday regularly, without labour, I shall send tempests upon you, and upon your crops, until they he endangered, and ye shall not have sustenance without affliction. Bring your tithes uprightly to My Church with devout will.

XII.—And whoever does not bring his tithe uprightly, from the goods that God has lent him, he shall meet with the wrath of God on his body and soul, and shall not see eternal life where he hopes to see it, but hunger shall be upon them, for they are an unbelieving people, preparing for themselves judgment of hell, and I shall not forgive them for ever, unless they keep My commandments. Whoever keep the holy Sunday, to them will I open the windows of heaven, and shall multiply for them all blessings of the labour of their bands, and shall prolong their years in this world, in health and earthly joy, and there shall be no anxious troubles among the people and I shall be a helper to them, and they shall be My adopted children. And know that I am the true Lord, and that there is no Lord but Me, for I shall take away all evil and care from you. If there be a priest that does not declare this epistle to My people, whether in town, or church, or city, My wrath shall fall upon him everlastingly. Let them declare to the people that they may believe in the special day, Sunday, and may merit the mercy of heaven, for God Himself sent this written warning to sinners, unto the altar of the Church of Peter and Paul at Rome, to admonish them concerning the work of Sundays and Feast-days.

Selections from the Hengwrt Mss. Preserved in the Peniarth Library. Williams, Robert, ed. & trans. London: Thomas Richards, 1892.