Nonfiction > Henry Craik, ed. > English Prose > Vol. I. Fourteenth to Sixteenth Century
Henry Craik, ed.  English Prose.  1916.
Vol. I. Fourteenth to Sixteenth Century
Reasonable Use of Images
By Reginald Pecock (c. 1395–1460)
From Repressour, Part II.

PERADVENTURE they will say thus: Many hundreds of men clepe this image the Trinity, and they clepe this image Christ, and this image the Holy Ghost, and this image Mary, and this image Saint Peter, and this image Saint Paul, and so forth of other; and they would not so clepe, but if they felt and believed withinforth as they clepe withoutforth; for else they were double. Wherefore all those hundreds believe amiss about those images. Thereto it is full light for to answer. When I come to thee in thy parish church thou wilt peradventure say to me thus: Lo here lieth my father and there lieth my grandfather, and in the other side lieth my wife; and yet they lie not there, but only their bones lie there. If I come to thee into thine hall or chamber thou wilt peradventure say to me in describing the story painted or woven in thine hall or chamber: “Here rideth King Arthur, and there fighteth Julius Cæsar, and here Hector of Troy throweth down a knight,” and so forth. For though thou thus say thou wilt not hold thee for to say therein amiss. Shall I therefore bear thee hand that thou trowest thy father and thy grandfather and thy wife for to live and dwell in their sepulchres, or shall I bear thee an hand 1 that thou trowest Arthur and Julius Cæsar and Hector to be quick in thy cloth, or that thou wert double in then so ruling of speech? I trow thou wouldest say I were uncourteous, or else unwise and foolish, if I should bear thee so an hand, if it liked thee for to so speak. And, if this be true, it followeth that as well thou art uncourteous, or else thou art to be excused of uncourtesy by thy great folly and madness, if thou bear me an hand that all the world full of clerks and of other laymen ween some images to be God, and some images to be quick Saints; or that they be double and guilefull, if they clepe an image of God by the name of God, and an image of a Saint by the name of a Saint. But (for more clearly this same answer to be understood) it is to wit, that if figurative speeches were not allowed to be had in use, that the image or the likeness of a thing may be cleped by the name of the thing of which he is image and likeness, and that the part of a thing may be cleped under and by the name of his whole, as that men say they have lived forty winters, meaning thereby that they have lived forty years, certes this challenge might well proceed and have his intent; but againward it is so that such figurative and unproper speech, for to clepe the image of a thing by and under the name of the thing of which he is image, hath been in famous use and hath been allowed both of Holy Scripture and of all peoples. And therefore, though men in such woned 2 figurative speech say, “Here at this altar is the Trinity, and there at thilk altar is Jesus, and yonder is the Holy Ghost, and thereby is Mary with Saint Peter,” and so forth; it needeth not therefore be said that they mean and feel that this image is the Trinity, or that thilk image is verily Jesus, and so forth of other; but that these images be the likenesses or the images of them.
Note 1. bear thee an hand = ascribe to thee, or accuse thee of. [back]
Note 2. woned = usual, customary. [back]
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