The letters of John Hus/Letter 50, To his Friends

For other English-language translations of this work, see Letter of Jan Hus to his friends (5–18 March 1415).

L. To his Friends

(Without date: middle March 1415)

I send a rhyming answer plain,
To match your letter’s cheerful strain,
The whale did Jonah safe restore:
No marks of lions Daniel bore:
Three Hebrews were by fire unharmed,
Susannah charges false disarmed.[1]
And why? Just, innocent and pure,
Each kept in God a trust most sure,
Their righteous Lord, Who sets those free
Who hope in Him eternally.
’Tis He, Who can th’ imprisoned Goose
From durance vile in mercy loose.
Yet bonds do purge his former stains
And contrite tears turn joys to pains:
That he, Christ’s prisoner, may learn
To bear reproaches and discern
Curses and shame in their true light,
To bruise the tempter’s head, to fight
And conquer death: or else to wrest
From life itself its guerdon best.

The God of mercy preserve you and give you comfort in His grace, and grant to you with myself constancy in Constance;[2] for if we shall be constant, we shall see the Lord coming to our aid. For the first time I am now learning to understand the book of Psalms,[3] to pray as I ought, to ponder over the insults of Christ and the sufferings of the martyrs, as Isaiah saith: Vexation alone shall make you under stand what you hear.[4] Again: What doth he know, that hath not been tried?[5]

I don’t understand what our learned doctor of Biberach wants. The Goose conjectures nothing from his negligence in writing,[6] except that he is well in body. May his soul’s health especially be confirmed by the Lord! for it is his soul’s health, no less than his bodily health, that I hope is being improved, and will after death be perfected in bliss with all the saints.

In prison hid from human sight,
The stated offices of night,
The gospel readings as they fall,
Litanies, vigils do not pall.
The “hours” pass lightly:[7] for this road
The Master went, Who bore our load.
This is my passion, naught indeed,
Or slight, if I from sin be freed.
May Christ the Lord stand by His own,
Lest Antichrist do gulp me down!

Rejoice all of you, who are one in the Lord. Greet one another, and prepare yourselves worthily to eat the Lord’s Body before Easter. I shall be without it, so far as the outward elements are concerned,[8] as now for a long time I have been without it and still shall be, as long as God wills. And no wonder, since Christ’s apostles and many other saints in prisons and desert abodes were likewise without it.

I rejoice that you stand together and that Železný Brada[9] is in good health with you all. So am I too, trusting as I do in Jesus; but I shall be in better health after death, if I keep God’s commands to the end. Would that God would give me time to write against the lies of the Chancellor of Paris, who so presumptuously and unjustly before the world hath dared to charge his neighbour with heresy.[10] But perchance God will cut short his writing either by my death or his, and in His judgment will settle the matter better than any writing of mine could do.

  1. These were favourite illustrations with Hus. See p. 176.
  2. Cf. pp. 159, 160, 195.
  3. In 1404 Hus had written a commentary of some length on Psalms cx.-cxix. See Mon. ii . 229 ff.
  4. Isa. xxviii. 19.
  5. Ecclus. xxxiv. 9.
  6. See p. 188 n.
  7. Nocturnus, gradus. litaniæ, singulæ horæ, etc. Gradus seems a loose use for the more usual gradale.
  8. Quoad sacramentalem perceptionem.
  9. These words mean “Ironbeard.” Palackẏ suggests that the person intended is therefore John Barbatus (for whom, see p. 44), who on p. 189 is called Železný Jan, “Bearded John,” and of whom Hus there says that he does not know where he is. Cf. p. 219, n. 1.
  10. P. 189, n. 3.