To be one of us, you must
Resemble also Minos,
Though he is the master and justice
Of hell, and of all the corners there.
For by doing so you will be greater,
To keep true justice you must advance.
Or else you are not worthy of a helmet,
Much less to govern a country anywhere.
Prudence says to the good knight that if he will be on the good men’s row, he must have the virtue of justice. And Aristotle says: He that is a justice first should judge himself, for he that does not judge himself is not worthy to judge another. Therefore we should understand that a man should correct his own faults, so that they are entirely destroyed, and that only a man who has done this should attempt to judge other men. And to speak morally, we shall tell a fable that illustrates this point. Minos, as the poets say, was a judge in hell, as a provost or a chief bailiff, and before him is brought all the souls descending into that valley; and after that they have deserved of penance, as many degrees as he will that they be set deep, as often he turns his tail about him. And because that hell is the justice and punishment of God, let us discuss this in God’s terms. Oh truth, there was a king in Greece called Minos of marvelous fierceness, and in him was great rigor of justice. And therefore the poets said that after his death he was committed to be the chief justice in hell. And Aristotle says: Justice is a measure that God has set on Earth to ensure that all things happen according to his plan.
And even as God is the head of justice and of all orders, it is necessary to the chivalrous spirit who will come to the victorious bliss to have this virtue. And Saint Bernard says in a sermon that justice is the concern of every man. Give justice to three kinds of people: to your sovereign, to your fellow, and to your subject–reverence in heart and and obedience of body to your sovereign; council and help your fellow, council in teaching him where he is ignorant and help him in achieving virtue; to your subject, by keeping him and chastising him if he has done wrong, you are keeping him from evil deeds. And to this proverb Solomon says in his Proverbs: “When justice is done, it brings joy to the righteous but terror to evildoers.”1
- This comes from Proverbs 21:15. Christine’s original Latin phrasing is as follows: “Excogitat iustus de domo impii, ut detrahat impios a malo’ gaudium est facere usticiam.”