MARGARET is said of a precious gem or ouch that is named a margarite (pearl) which gem is white, little and virtuous. So the blessed Margaret was white by virginity, little by humility, and virtuous by operation of miracles. The virtue of this stone is said to be against effusion of blood, against passion of the heart and to comforting of the spirit. In like wise, the blessed Margaret had virtue against shedding of her blood by constancy, for in her martyrdom she was most constant: and also against the passion of the heart, that is to say, temptation of the devil for she overcame the devil by victory: and to the comforting of the spirit by doctrine, for by her doctrine she converted much people. Theotinus, a learned man, wrote her legend.
The holy saint Margaret was of the city of Antioch, daughter of Theodosius, patriarch of the idols of paynims. And she was delivered to a nurse for to be kept. And when she came to a perfect age she was baptized, wherefore she was in great hate of her father.
On a certain day when she was fifteen years of age, and kept the sheep of her nurse with other maidens, the provost Olybrius passed by the way whereas she was and considered in her so great beauty and fairness that anon he burned in her love and sent his servants and bade them take her and bring her to him. "For if she be free, I shall take her unto my wife and if she be bond I shall make her my concubine."
And when she was presented tofore him, he demanded her of her lineage, name and religion. And she answered that she was of noble lineage, and her name Margaret and Christian in religion. To whom the provost said: "The two first things be convenient to you, that is that you are noble and are called Margaret which is a most fair name. But the third appertains nothing to you that so fair a maid and so noble should worship a God crucified." To whom she said: "How do you know that Christ was crucified?" He answered: "By the books of Christian men." To whom Margaret said: "O what shame it is to you when you read the pain of Christ and the glory, and believe one thing and deny the other." And she said and affirmed Him to be crucified by His will for our redemption and now lives ever in bliss. And then the provost being wroth commanded her to be put in prison.
And the next day following, he commanded that she should be brought to him and then said to her: "O good maid, have pity on your beauty and worship our gods that it may be well." To whom she said: "I worship Him that makes the earth to tremble, whom the sea dreads, and the winds and the creatures obey." To whom the provost said: "But if you consent to me, I shall make your body to be all to torn." Then Saint Margaret said: "Christ gave Himself over to the death for me, and I desire gladly to die for Christ." Then the provost commanded her to be hanged on an instrument to be tormented of the people, and to be cruelly first beaten with rods and then with iron combs to rent, in somuch that the blood ran out of her body, like as a stream runs out of a fresh springing well. They that were there wept and said: "O Margaret, verily we be sorry for you, which see your body so foul and cruelly torn and rent. O how your most beauty have you lost for your incredulity and misbelief. Now believe and you shall live." The provost covered his face with his mantle, for he might not see so much effusion of blood, and then commanded that she should be taken down and to shut her in fast prison.
And there was seen a marvellous brightness in the prison by the keepers. And whiles she was in prison she prayed her Lord that he would visibly show unto her the fiend that had fought with her. And there appeared an horrible dragon and assailed her and would have devoured her. But she made the sign of the cross and anon he vanished away. In another place it is said that he swallowed her in his belly, she making the sign of the cross, and the belly brake asunder and so she issued out all whole and sound. This swallowing and breaking of the belly of the dragon is said that it is apocryphal. [Then came there out of a corner a great horrible dragon and yawned on her so that his mouth was on her head and his tongue was down to her heel, and would have swallowed. And when he had her all in his mouth, he all to burst in sunder for the cross that Margaret made in the entry. Liber Festivalis (a book of sermons founded on the Golden Legend).]
After this the devil appeared to her in likeness of a man for to deceive her. And when she saw him she went to prayer. And after she arose and the fiend came to her and took her by the hand and said: "That which you have done suffices to you; but now cease as to my person." She caught him by the head and threw him to the ground, and set her right foot on his neck, saying: "Lie still, you fiend, under the foot of a woman." The devil then cried: "O blessed Margaret, I am overcome. If a young man had overcome me I had not recked, but alas I am overcome of a tender virgin, wherefore I make the more sorrow."
Then she constrained that fiend to tell why he came to her. And he answered that he came to her to counsel her for to obey the desire and request of the provost. Then she constrained him to say wherefore he tempted so much and so oft Christian people. To whom he answered that naturally he hated virtuous men. "And though we be oft put aback from them, yet our desire is much to exclude them from the felicity that we have fell from. For we may never obtain nor recover our bliss that we have lost." And then she demanded what he was. And he answered: "I am named Veltis, one of them whom Solomon closed in a vessel of brass. And after his death it happed that they of Babylon found this vessel and supposed to have founden great treasure therein. And they brake the vessel and then a great multitude of us devils flew out and filled full the air, alway awaiting and espying where we may assail rightful men." And when he had said thus, she took off her foot and said to him: "Flee hence, you wretched fiend." And anon the earth opened and the fiend sank in.
Then the next day following when all the people were assembled, she was presented tofore the judge. And she not doing sacrifice to the idols was cast into the fire and her body broiled with burning brands, in such wise that all the people marvelled that so tender a maid might suffer so many torments. And after that they put her fast bounden in a great vessel full of water, that by changing of the torments the sorrow and feeling of the pain might be the more. But suddenly the earth trembled, and the blessed virgin without any hurt issued out of the water, saying to our Lord: "I beseech you, My Lord, that this water may be to me the fount of Baptism in to everlasting life." And anon there was heard great thunder, and a dove descended from heaven, and set a golden crown on her head. Then five thousand men believed on our Lord, and for Christ's love they all were beheaded by the commandment of the provost Olybrius. Then Olybrius, seeing the faith of the holy Margaret immoveable, and also fearing that others should be converted to the Christian faith by her, gave sentence and commanded that she should be beheaded.
Then she prayed to one Malchus that should behead her that she might have space to pray. And that gotten, she prayed to our Lord, saying: "Father Almighty, I yield to you thankings that You have suffered me to come to this glory, beseeching You to pardon them that pursue me. And I beseech You, good Lord, of your abundant grace, You will grant unto all them that write my passion, read it, or hear, and to them that remember me, that they may deserve to have plain remission and forgiveness of all their sins. And also, good Lord, if any woman with child travailing call on me, that You will keep her from peril, and that the child may be delivered without any hurt." And when she had finished her prayer, there was a voice heard from heaven saying that her prayers were heard and granted, and that the gates of heaven were open and abode for her; and bade her come into the country of everlasting rest. Then she, thanking our Lord, rose up, and bade the hangman accomplish the commandment of the provost. To whom the hangman said: "God forbid that I should slay the virgin of Christ." To whom she said: "If you do it not you may have no part with me." Then he being afeard and trembling smote off her head, and falling down at her feet gave up the ghost.
Then Theotinus took up the holy body, and bare it into Antioch and buried it in the house of a noble woman and widow named Synclecia. And thus this blessed and holy virgin, Saint Margaret, suffered death and received the crown of martyrdom the xiiith kalends of August, as is found in her story: and it is read in another place that it was the iii ides of July.