Like Rolle's other two letters in English, The Commandment and The Form
of Living, Ego Dormio was written for a female recipient. The colophon
in MS Dd.v.64 claims that ED was written for a nun at Yedingham. Yedingham
was only a mile from the Dalton's manor of Foulbridge on the borders of the north
and east ridings, and the convent there must have been wellknown to Rolle, but
the tone of the work does not seem particularly appropriate to someone already
in religious orders; the observation that in the second degree of love one abandons
the world and leaves father and mother would seem to fit a girl about to embark
on the religious life. In this, the earliest of Rolle's epistles, the grades of
love are not given names, as they are in the two other English letters and in
the Latin Emendatio Vitae. (This translation is based on a collation of
MS C [CUL Dd.v.64] with Longleat 29.) There are twelve manuscripts of Ego Dormio,
one of which gives it twice; all save four attribute the work to Rolle. The text
in MS C has been partially adapted for a general public, but as Dr. Ogilvie-Thomson
notes in her edition of the Longleat MS, this attempt has not been carried through
consistently. The translation follows Lt more closely than C for this reason,
and incorporates a substantial paragraph from Lt which does not occur in any other
extant manuscript, but which carries the stamp of Rolle's other writing and may
well be authentic. There is also a Latin version of Ego Dormio.
Sources; Allen, EW, pp. 60-72; Horstman, YW I, pp. 49-61. Also Allen,
WA, pp. 247-51. A modernized version of Ego Dormio is given in Eric
Colledge, The Medieval Mystics of England (1962), pp. 143-54. His version
of the lyrical passages is beautiful -- but very free.
Ego dormio et cor meum vigilat. (1) [You] who desire love, [open your ears]
and hear of love. In the Song of Love I find the expression [which I have quoted
at the beginning of this piece of writing]: "I sleep but my heart is awake." Great
love is demonstrated by someone who is never halfhearted in loving, but unremittingly,
whether standing, sitting, walking or [performing any other activity], is constantly
meditating on his love, and frequently even dreaming of it. Because I love [you]
I am courting you in order to have you exactly as I would wish -- not for myself,
but for my lord! I want to become [a] go-between to lead you to the bed of the
one who has set you up and paid for you, Christ, son of the king of heaven, because
he is eager to [marry] you if you are willing to give him your love. He is not
asking anything more of you than your love; and you are doing what I want if you
love him. Christ desires [the beauty of your soul, wanting you to give him your
whole heart, and I'm not persuading] you to do anything except what he wants,
just that you try very hard night and day to abandon all human affection and attraction
which hinder you from praising Jesus Christ properly; because while your heart
clings to the love of any physical thing, you cannot be perfectly united to God.
In heaven there are nine orders of angels, which are organized into three hierarchies.
The lowest hierarchy comprises angels, archangels and virtues; the middle hierarchy
comprises principalities, powers and dominations; the highest hierarchy, which
is closest to God, comprises thrones, cherubim and seraphim. The angels are lowest,
the seraphim highest; yet that order which is least bright is seven times as bright
as the sun, [and just as you can see that the sun] is brighter than the candle,
the candle brighter than the moon, and the moon brighter than the stars, so the
orders of angels in heaven are each one brighter than the next, from angels to
seraphim. I'm pointing this out so as to set your heart alight to crave the companionship
of angels, since when all those who are good and holy depart from this world they
are destined to be adopted into these orders, some into the lowest, who have loved
[God] greatly; some into the middle rank who have loved [God] more; others into
the highest, who love God most and are most burning in his love. The word seraphim
means "burning" (2) and to this order are admitted those who want least from this
world and, feeling most sweetness in God, have hearts which are most burning in
I am writing [this] especially to you because I detect [in you] more integrity
than in others, in that you will give your attention to carrying out in action
what you can see is beneficial for your soul, and will devote yourself to that
life in which you can offer your heart to Jesus Christ with most dedication, and
be least among the preoccupations of this world. It is the case that if you are
resolute in burning love for God while you live here, there can be no doubt that
your seat can be allotted for you very high up and most happily, close to God's
presence among his holy angels. You see, in the same rank where the proud devils
were when they fell down below there are seated simple men and women who, in return
for a little brief penance and hardship (here) which they have endured for the
sake of their love for God, receive unending tranquility and happiness in heaven.
Just now it seems hard to you, perhaps, to transfer your heart from all earthly
things, from useless chitchat and from all human affection, and to go off on your
own to keep vigil and pray and contemplate the joy of heaven and commiserate with
Christ in his passion, to envisage the torment of hell which is appointed for
the sinful. But certainly, as soon as you are accustomed to it, it will seem easier
and sweeter to you than any earthly comfort ever did. As soon as your heart is
touched by the sweetness of heaven you will take little pleasure in the jollity
of this world; and when you feel joy in the love of Christ you will feel disgusted
by the enjoyment and gratification of earthly entertainments: all the music and
all the luxuries and comforts which all the people of this world are able to devise
or invent [seem and indeed are] merely disgusting and irritating to the heart
of someone who is really burning in the love of God, for he or she finds merriment,
joy and music in the song of angels, as you will easily be able to appreciate
if you abandon everything which you derive human pleasure from and cease to be
preoccupied by your friends and relations but give them all up for the love of
God, devoting your heart entirely to desiring his love and to pleasing him. You
are bound to find more joy in him than I can conceive. [How could I write about
it, then?] I have no idea whether [many] people are in such a state of love, because
it is a rule that the higher the life is, the fewer followers it has here, since
many things lure people away from loving God. So you may hear and observe this:
God comforts his lovers more than those who do not love him can guess, since although
we appear to be living abstemiously outwardly, we are bound to have very great
inward joy if we dispose ourselves sensibly to the service of God, and direct
all our thoughts to him, and abandon trivialities.
Devote your entire attention to understanding this letter, and if you have directed
your whole desire to loving God, then listen to (this account of) three degrees
of love, so that you may rise from one to the other until you are in the highest,
because I don't want to conceal from you something which I think will be able
to convert you into holiness. (3) The first degree of love occurs when a man keeps
the Ten Commandments and keeps himself from the seven deadly sins and is firm
in his faith in holy church, and refuses, for the sake of any earthly matter,
to anger God, but will rather stand loyally in his service and persevere in it
to his life's end. It is essential for everyone who wants to be saved to have
this degree of love since no one can enter heaven unless he or she love God and
neighbor without superiority, bad temper and malice, and without defaming his
character, and without all other poisonous sins such as laziness, greediness,
permissive behavior and materialism. This is because these vices kill the soul
and force it to separate from God, [who is the life of the soul; and when a man
or woman is pathetically separated from God we declare that he or she is dead,
because he or she is dead to God] without whom no creature has the power to live.
Just as a person poisoned by a sweet-tasting morsel absorbs venom which destroys
his body, so a wretch who lives sinfully destroys his or her soul by pleasure-seeking
and sensuality and brings it to unending death. People think that sin is something
really candy-sweet, but the aftertaste reserved as payment for them is more bitter
than aloes, sourer than vinegar and worse than all the misery [one can imagine
in the world].
[All perishes and passes away that we behold with eyes;]
It withers into wretchedness, the wealth of this world.
Robes and riches rot in the ditch,
Couture and cosmetics slither into sorrow,
Luxuries and love-tokens very soon will stink,
Their wealth and their possessions will pull them down to death.
All the self-willed in this world are destined for one dale
Where they may see their sorrowing; where in distress lies all the rabble.
But he who has loved Jesus Christ may sing in consolation,
When all the wretched from their wealth tumble into hell.
But when you have lived fully by the commandments of God and have [strictly kept
yourself] from all morta1 sins and have pleased God in that degree, make the decision
that you will [love God] (yet) more and do better for your soul, and become perfect,
And then you will enter the second degree of love, that is, to give up the whole
world, your father and your mother and all your relations, and follow Christ in
poverty, In this degree you are to make every effort to be pure in heart and chaste
in body and devote yourself to simplicity, endurance and obedience, and see how
beautiful you can make your soul with virtue, and detest all moral weakness so
that your life will become spiritual instead of physical, never again speaking
harm about those around you nor returning any unkind word for another one, but
tolerating everything patiently in your heart without any upsurge of anger. In
this way you will experience peace, interior and exterior, and come to spiritual
life, which you will find sweeter than anything on earth.
Perfect spiritual life means to despise the world and desire the joy of heaven,
to destroy through God's grace all wicked yearnings in the body and forget the
consolation and the affection of your relations, loving them only in God, irrespective
of whether they are alive or dead, poor or rich, [in health or sickness, in misery
or well-off,] you must continually give thanks to God and bless him for all [his]
works. The fact is that God's decrees are so secret that no creature is able to
understand them, and frequently some people have their pleasures and wishes in
this world and hell in the next, while some people are in torment and persecution
and agony in this life and have heaven as their reward. Therefore, if your friends
are always in comfort and good health and well-off in worldly goods, both you
and they might well be all the more anxious in case they lose the joy which is
endless. If they are in a state of privation, poor health, or living honestly,
they can be confident in God of coming to his glory, The fact is that in this
degree of love you shall be so filled with the grace of the Holy Spirit that you
will not experience either unhappiness or tears except for spiritual things such
as for your own sins and those of other people, and for your love for Jesus Christ
as you contemplate his passion; and this I would like you to [pay very great attention
to] because it will set your heart alight to despise the goods of this world and
all its gaiety and to desire burningly the radiance of heaven along with the angels
and saints, And when your heart is entirely disposed to God's service and all
thoughts of the world are driven out, then you will feel inclined to steal away
on your own to think about Jesus and to be in deep prayer, for through good thoughts
and holy prayers your heart is to be made burning in the love of Jesus Christ,
and then you are hound to feel sweetness and spiritual joy, both in praying and
meditating. And when you are alone by yourself, spend a lot of time saying the
psalms of the Psalter and Our Fathers and Hail Marys, and take no notice of how
many you are saying but note only that you are saying them well with all the devotion
you can, raising your mind to heaven. It is better to say seven psalms, yearning
as you do so for the love of Christ, and with your whole heart in your prayer,
than (to say) seven hundred (4) while allowing your thoughts to drift into trivialities
of physical matters. What good do you think can come of it if you let your tongue
babble the words of the book and your heart rove around in different parts of
the world? And so fix your heart on Christ and he will seize it to himself and
protect it from the infection of worldly enterprises.
And seeing that you yearn to be God's lover, I appeal to you to love this name
Jesus, and meditate on it in your heart so that you never forget it wherever
you are. And, assuredly, I promise you that you will find great joy and strength
in it; and because of the love with which you love Jesus so tenderly and as such
an intimate friend, you will be filled with grace on this earth and be Christ's
beloved maiden and wife in heaven. This is because nothing pleases God so much
as true devotion to [his] name of Jesus. If you love it properly and enduringly
and never stop, in spite of anything that people may say or do, you will be carried
away in ecstasy into a higher life than you know how to wish for. His goodness
is so great that when with heartfelt conviction we request of him one of something
he will give [us three], (5) so very pleased is he when we decide to direct our
whole heart to love him.
In this degree of love you shall overcome [three] enemies: the world, the devil
and your body, but all the same you will have constant warfare all your life until
you die, and [all the time] it is essential for you to be concerned about keeping
on your feet, so that you do not sink in [wrongful] pleasures, nor in wrongful
thoughts, nor in wrongful words, nor in wrongful acts; therefore your longing
ought to be intense that you may really love Christ. Your body you are to conquer
by maintaining your virginity for God's love alone. Alternatively, if you are
not a virgin, by living in strict self-control in thought and action, and by prudent
abstemiousness [and sensible attention to duty]. The world you are to conquer
by yearning to have the love of Christ and by meditating on [his] sweet name,
"Jesus," and on desire for heaven. For from the moment you relish the taste of
Jesus, the whole world will seem to you nothing but insanity and harm to men's
souls. You will not crave then to be rich, to have lots of elegant coats, (6)
lots of dresses (7) and lovers' gifts, but you will value the whole lot as worthless
and despise it all, and accept no more than is essential for you to have. Two
sets of clothing or one will seem sufficient for you [who at present have five
or six]; give some to Christ, who walks bare [and poor] and reckon all of it as
nothing as far as you are concerned, since you can't be certain you'll still be
alive when they are only half worn-out. The devil is conquered when you stand
firmly against all his temptations in honest love and humility.
[And remember me, don't let me be forgotten in your prayers: (I am the one) who
is contriving for you to be dead with Christ, whose mercy I stand in need of.]
I don't want you ever to be idle, so be constantly either talking of God, or doing
something significant, or thinking especially about him, [and] so that your mind
may be constantly remembering him, meditate frequently in this way on his passion:
Meditation on Christ's Passion (8)
My king much water wept and much blood he let;
And was most sorely beat till his own blood ran wet,
When their scourges met: Most hard they did them fling
And at the pillar swing; his dear face smeared with spitting.
The thorn crowns the king; most deep is that pricking.
Alas my joy, that sweet being is judged to the hanging.
Nailed were his hands [and] nailed were his feet,
And pierced was his side, so lovely and so sweet.
Naked his white breast and red his bloody side;
Wan was his color, his wounds deep and wide.
In five places on his flesh the blood down did slide
As streams do on the shore-such torture he can't hide.
Now contemplate great misery: how he is judged and dead
And nailed on to tree, the bright angels' bread.
Driven by men most cruel, he who is our soul's good,
And defiled just like a fool, in heaven the holiest food.
A marvel then to see, if we all but understood,
How God in majesty was dying on the rood.
In truth it can be said, love dances first in ring; (9)
What him so low has laid, if not love, was no thing.
Jesu, receive my heart, and to your love me bring;
My desire to you will dart: I long for your coming.
Make me now clean from sin, let love us ever join.
Kindle my fire within, that I your love may win
And see your face, Jesu; now let that bliss begin.
Jesu, my soul now mend; your love into me send,
That I with you life spend in joy that has no end.
In love wound now my thought, my heart lift up in glee;
My soul you dearly bought; make it your lover be.
[Save you, I yearn for nought; this world therefore] I flee;
You are what I have sought; your face I long to see.
You make my soul most bright, as love can alter sight.
How long must I he here? [When may I come you near] (10)
Your melody to hear, of love to hear the song
Which is enduring long? [will] you be my loving
That I your love may sing?
If you meditate on this every day, you will be bound to find great sweetness,
which will draw your heart upward and make you sink down weeping and in deep yearning
for Jesus; and your heart will be snatched away above all earthly things, above
the sky and the stars, so that the eye of your heart may gaze into heaven. (11)
And so you enter the third degree of love, in which you are to [be in] great delight
and comfort, should you but obtain the grace to reach it. In fact, I'm not saying
that you or anyone else who reads this is bound to accomplish everything; you
see, it is the decision of God, [who] selects whom he wants to accomplish either
what is described here, or something different in some other way, just as he gives
people grace for their salvation, because individual people receive distinct gifts
from our Lord, Jesus Christ, and all of those who end their lives in love are
destined to be placed in the joy of heaven. Whoever is in this degree has wisdom,
and discernment to [live] according to God's will.
This degree of love is called contemplative life, which loves to be solitary,
without ringing bells or noise or singing or shouting. (12) When you first reach
it, your spiritual eye is carried up into the glory or heaven and there is enlightened
by grace and set ablaze by the fire of Christ's love so that you truly feel the
burning of love in your heart, constantly lifting your mind toward God, [filling
you full of] love, joy and sweetness, to such an extent that no illness, nor mental
agony nor humiliation nor harsh living conditions are able to distress you, but
your whole life will change into joy. And then, because of the elevation of your
heart [your] prayers turn into joyful song and your thoughts into sweet sounds.
Then Jesus is all your desire, all your delight, all your joy, all your consolation,
all your strength, [so that] your song will always be about him, and in him all
your rest. Then you may indeed say:
"I sleep and my heart wakes.
Who shall to my lover say
That for his love I long always?"
All those who love the frivolities and intimate friends of this world, and set
their heart on anything other than on God, are not able to reach this degree,
nor [the] second degree of love previously mentioned. And for this reason you
must abandon all comforts of this world so that your heart may not stoop to the
love of any creature nor to any flurry of activity in the world, but so that you
may, in silence, be constantly valiant, and resolute in thought and speech in
[loving God. You must quite absolutely give your heart to Jesus if you want to
reach this degree of love. As soon as you are in it you will have no subsequent
need of any affection, nor any accommodation, not even a bed, nor of the comforts
the world gives, but all the time you will want to be sitting so that all the
time you can be loving your lord. In this degree of love you will long for death,
and be happy when you hear people mention death, because that love makes you as
certain of heaven when you die as you are at the moment certain of suffering,
because the fire of love will have burnt away all the corrosion of sin. And I
am sure that as soon as you or I or anyone else is brought into this joy of love,
we shall not be able to live as long afterward as other people do, but just as
we live in love, so we shall die in joy, and move on to the one whom we have loved.
In this degree of love all apprehensiveness, all sorrow, all misery, all empty
joy and all sinful appetites are driven from us and we live in the sweetness of
heaven. Apply yourself always to persevere and to become better and better]. Our
lord does not give people beauty, wealth and pleasures for them to set their hearts
on and so make sinful use of them, but so that they should know him and love him
and thank him for all his gifts. The greater is their disgrace if they anger him
on account of the many gifts in body and soul which he has given them. For this
reason, if we wish to escape the pain [of hell and the pain] of purgatory we must
hold ourselves back completely from the passions and the attractions and from
the evil pleasures and the harmful anxieties of this world and see that the regrets
of the world are not in us, but that we fix our heart firmly on Jesus Christ and
stand bravely against temptations.
Now I am going to record a song of love which you may take some enjoyment in when
you are loving Jesus Christ.
Cantus Amoris: A Song of Love
My song is in sighing, my life is in longing, (13)
Till I see you, my king, so fair in your shining,
So fair in your Godhead.
Into your light me lead, and in your love me feed,
In love make me succeed, and be you ever my meed.
When will you come, Jesu my joy,
To reprieve me from care,
Yourself give to me, for me to see, living evermore?
All my desiring had come if I were with you there.
I want no thing save only you; my one wish I declare. (14)
Jesu, my savior, Jesu my comforter, or all fairness the flower,
My help and my succor -- when shall I see your tower?
When will you me call? I long still for your hall,
To see you [and your] all. Such love -- let it not fall.
My heart designs the frontal for seating most royal. (15)
Now I grow pale and wan for love of my dear man.
Jesu, God yet human, your love-lesson began
When I to you fast ran, the book of love to scan.
I sit and sing of love-longing which in my breast has bred.
Jesu, Jesu, Jesu, why aren't I to you led?
You contemplate my present state; in love my mind established.
When I you see, and you're with me, then I am quite full-fed.
.Jesu, your love's fixed fast: love seems to me the best.
My heart, when could it burst, to come to you, my rest?
Jesu, Jesu, Jesu, for you it is I yearn
And so, my life and loving, when may I to you turn?
Jesu, my dear and my bounty, delight are you to sing.
Jesu, my mirth and melody, when will you come, my king?
Jesu, my help and my honey, my health, my comforting,
Jesu, I desire to die when it's to you pleasing.
Longing in its descent to me my love has sent.
All sorrow from me went since my heart has been burnt;
In Christ's sweet love to believe, that will I never leave
But ever to my Love I cleave: may love my grief relieve,
And to [my] bliss me bring and grant all my yearning,
Jesu, my love, my sweeting.
Longing in me alights and binds me day and night,
Until have in my sight his face so fair and bright.
Jesu, my hope most bold, my joy which is untold,
Let your love not grow cold; may I your love enfold
And dwell in your stronghold.
Jesu, with you I stop and stay, and sooner would I die
Than have this world in its array to my own mastery.
When will you pity me, Jesu, that I might with you be,
To look on you only? My seat appoint for me
And let me upon it sit: thus we together are knit,
And I your love shall sing through sight of your shining
In heaven without ending.
Appendix: The Lyrics
It is difficult to decide which lyrics attributed to him are by Rolle himself,
and which by his "school." The four lyrics in two of his prose works (ED
and Form) are certainly his, although they incorporate some borrowed material,
but are far less regular in form than the seven short lyrical pieces which occur
in four manuscripts and which in two of the four are ascribed to Rolle. In CUL
MS Dd v.64 III (MS C) there are two sets of lyrics; of these, the first is written
as prose, and the second, written in verse lines and immediately following the
first, has a colophon after the penultimate item which reads Explicit cantica
divini amoris secundum Ricardum Hampole. Hope Allen assumed, probably correctly,
that the colophon covers only the second set of lyrics; no claim is made for Rolle's
authorship of the first set, written as prose. Of the second set, A Song of
Mercy and A Salutation to Jesus occur in no other extant manuscript.
The Nature of Love and Thy Joy Be in the Love of Jesus, however,
are also found in the Lincoln Thornton MS (MS T), where they are joined together,
with The Nature of Love, as Allen titles it, following as part of the same
piece; the scribe of MS C indicates that he knows, perhaps prefers, this arrangement,
and it is also that presented by the scribe of MS Longleat 29. I have followed
this format in the translation.
Similarly, alternative arrangements of material also occur in the Lambeth MS 853
(MS L), Longleat 29 (MS Lt), and MS CUL Dd v.64 (MS C). MS L contains, without
author attribution, the lyric "Love Is Life" (which Allen titles A Song of
the Love of Jesus) with another lyric, "Jesu, Son of God" (Allen's A Song
of Love Longing to Jesus) inserted between lines 68 and 69. MS Lt, which unambiguously
ascribes the lyrics to Rolle, along with the prose works, has the same insertion
of "Jesu, Son of God" as MS L, but whereas the amalgamated lyric in MS L is written
as one long poem, in MS Lt the inserted "Jesu, Son of God" is marked off as a
separate poem by being preceded and followed by "Amen," thus making a third separate
poem of the last section, which begins "I sigh and sob," and forms lines 69-96
of the poem "Love Is Life" in MS C. MS C does not insert "Jesu, Son of God" but
has this, immediately preceeding "Love Is Life," as a separate poem. I have followed
Allen's titles, and arranged "Jesu, Son of God" in the order of MS C (i.e. preceding
"Love Is Life"), but have marked off lines 69-96 of "Love Is Life" as a separate
part; in MS Lt, of course, it is a completely separate lyric. Following a suggestion
of Vincent Gillespie ("Mystic's Foot: Rolle and Affectivity," in The Medieval
Mystical Tradition in England II, Dartington 1982, p.222), I further divide
at line 28, "If I love." The arrangement in MS Lt may well be authorial, since
Lt has been shown to have descended from authoritative copies of Rolle's other
works. MS Lt also contains another lyric, "Jesu sweet, now will I sing," which
it ascribes to Rolle; this is based on two lyrics which occur in the collection
of lyrics in BL MS Harley 2253, one of which is headed Dulcis Jesu Memoria,
the title of a pseudo-Bernardian hymn on which it is indeed based; Rolle may have
used this prayer in his devotions, and perhaps even written additional stanzas,
but I have not included it here since it is unlikely he wrote the bulk of it.
Dr. Ogilvie-Thomson's discussion of "Love Is Life" is in Review of English
Studies N.S.10 (1959) s.n. Sarah Wilson.
Rolle did not aim to produce lyric brilliance, nor do his lyrics seem to be attempts
to capture his mystic canor; they are prayer pieces, part of the purgatorial
discipline which includes prayer, meditation and reading. Their style, syntax
and diction are simple in the extreme. I have tried to match Rolle's rhymes as
closely as I could; where I resort to assonance, it must be remembered that Rolle
used exact rhyme. Indeed, he is far more confident of his rhyme than of his rhythm.
The internal rhymes do not follow the monorhymed quatrain form of the end-rhymes,
but frequently move into couplets, (e.g. in stanza 4 of Exhortation), and
I have attempted to indicate this in my translation. I have also attempted to
follow Rolle's use of monosyllabic nouns and verbs, wherever possible.
Sources: Allen, EW, pp. 39-53; Horstman, YW I, pp. 74-82. The non-RoI-
lean lyrics are printed by Horstman in YW I, pp. 71-3. See also Allen,
WA, pp. 287-311.
All sins you must gainsay through practice of free will,
And yearn to walk in the way which is without evil;
Slide not from that high state which you aspire to still:
It leads to the King's own gate where you can play your fill.
Here if you live sparely, there wealth you yourself win.
No wonder if you be in sorrow for your sin.
Some say that they can see yet blind are they within:
Unless they're now set free then death shall them ruin.
Death dashes all down bare: no one can that withstand,
And makes many ill fare, which they don't comprehend.
I know none whom he'll spare; after all men he'll send.
Therefore from sin be clear: you do not know your end.
Now may we watch a-tremble: in dread so low we lie.
The trump blows to assemble, the Judge is close us by;
The King comes with all his host to fell his enemy,
The proud with all their boast he now condemns to die.
It rings now in my ear: "Rise, dead, to be chastised";
The devil can't come near him who here Christ appeased.
The wicked in their fear for Hell's fire now are seized;
The King has cast the spear: he suits such enterprise.
That day joy shall begin for all who in pain decline;
Our flesh great bliss will win, radiant as sunshine;
Our place is heaven within -- I long to sit in mine --
Love Christ and hate all sin, and so earn yours in time.
A Song of Mercy
Mercy is most to my mind, for mercy Ôtis that I most praise.
Mercy, considerate and kind, from all my troubles may me raise;
Alas! so long I have been blind, walked astray in all my ways.
Mercy I dearly wish to find to lead me in my last days.
Mercy, lead me at the last when I out of this world must wend:
Crying to you, I trust most fast that you will save me from the fiend.
Mercy is true as any steel when rightly it's besought.
Seek Mercy, you who would it feel, for it will ne'er fall short.
Mercy, the vision which will heal, for which I have it most in thought.
Mercy pleases me so well, for through that Mercy I was bought;
I do not know what I may say to Mercy, who is always good:
"Grammerci! you with Mercy pay and it's my solace and my food."
Mercy I am glad to honor, it is so sweet in my own sight;
It lies within my Creator who made us of his own great might.
Mercy is my whole succor to lead me to the land of might,
And take me to the royal tower where I can see my God so bright.
God of all, my Lord and King, I ask you, Jesu: be my friend,
So that I may your Mercy sing in your bliss without an end.
Mercy is so high aloft no sin may take it by surprise.
To your mercy my heart is moved for in it all my pleasure lies.
Lord, let it not be removed when you appoint your great Assize.
With Mercy may my soul be soothed when I shall come to your Justice;
To the Judge I am to come but do not know my day.
Mercy, part and total sum: in it I trust and for it pray.
A Song of Love Longing to Jesus
Jesus, son of God, Lord of Majesty,
Send to my heart the will you to desire solely.
Seize from me all love for this land so you my love may be;
Take my heart into your hand: set me in stability.
Jesu, the Maiden's son, who with your love me bought,
Pierce my soul with your spear which greatest love to all has brought.
In longing, lead me to your light, firmly fix on you my thought;
With your sweetness fill my heart; my cares away be caught.
Jesu my God, my King, neglect not my desire:
My mind, make it most meek, detesting pride and ire.
Your wish is my desiring, with love now kindle fire
That I in sweet praising with angels make my prayer.
Wound my heart entire, control it at your command;
On enjoyment that endures firm make me fix my mind.
May I your love secure; with grace my thoughts expand
Clean me from things impure, let me to you ascend.
Root it in my heart, that memory of your pain;
In sickness or unhurt, your love be ever mine.
My joy in you I see: receive my soul again.
My love all growing be, so it may ne'er decline.
My song is in sighing, while I live in this way:
My life is in longing, which binds me night and day,
Till I come to my King, where dwell with him I may,
And see his fair shining, in life that lasts for aye.
Longing on me descended, for love which I can't leave,
Love has me quite ended, yet grief it will relieve;
Since my heart was branded, in Christ's sweet love alive,
All woe from me has wended, here no more to arrive.
I sit and sing of love-longing that in my heart has bred:
Jesu, my King and my joying, why can't I to you be led?
I estimate in great estate with joy I would be fed;
Jesu, me bring to your dwelling, through blood which you have shed.
Adjudged on cross to cling, the angel's fairest food,
Most dire they did him ding, when he in bonds there stood:
His back raw with beating, and spilt his blessed blood;
The thorn then crowned the King, who was nailed upon the rood.
White was his naked breast and red his bloody side,
Wan was his fairest face, his wounds both deep and wide;
The Jews would not evade torturing him in pride;
As streams in full cascade his blood gushed in a tide.
Blinded were his dearest eyes, bloody his flesh with wounds,
His lovely life was laid full low, and sorrow now him surrounds;
Death and life begin their strife; which will him master more?
When angels' bread was condemned and dead to save our souls from sore.
Life was slain and rose again: now frolicking may we fare;
And death is brought to little or nought and cast into endless care.
May he who you bought have all your thought to lead you by his lore:
Give all your soul to Christ your goal and love him evermore.
A Song of the Love of Jesus
Love is life which lasts for aye, if with Christ it's impressed,
When weal nor woe ne'er change it may; as is written in words wisest;
The night is turned into the day, your travail into rest;
If you will love just as I say, you can be with the best.
Love is thought, with great desire, of God's fair loving;
Love I liken to a fire extinguished by no thing.
Love will cleanse us of our sin, love our cure shall bring;
Love the King's own heart may win, love of joy may sing.
The throne of Love is lifted high, right up to Heaven its span;
On earth it acts most secretly and makes men pale and wan,
Yet the bed of bliss it goes most nigh, I tell you, for I can:
Though the way may seem heavy, Love couples God and man.
Love is hotter than the ember, love will none defame;
Who might the flame of love endure, if it were ever the same?
Love us conceals and sets apart, raises to Heaven's plane;
Love ravishes Christ into our heart, but quite unlike lust's shame.
Learn to love, if you would live when you from here must pass.
All your thought to him you give: it keeps you from distress.
See your heart of him ne'er cloy, though troubles you oppress;
This way you'll keep him, in joy, and love the one timeless.
Jesu, who to me life lent, into your love me bring:
To you take my whole intent, for you be all my longing.
Woe would away from me be sent, done would be all my wanting
If but my soul hear and consent to the song of your praising.
Your love is everlasting, which to us you impart;
Make me in it burning, may its heat ne'er depart;
Take my mind in your holding, and steady it every part,
That I may not be yielding to love this world's false art.
If I love any earthly thing that panders to my will,
And secures my joy and pleasing if it may on me prevail,
I must then dread my parting, as loathsome and evil,
For all my wealth is but weeping when pain my soul must spoil.
The joy which men have seen may be likened to hay,
Which now is fair and green, and then withers away.
And this world, I maintain, is like this till Doom's-day,
In travail and ruin: escape it no one may.
If you love with all your thought and hate the filth of sin,
Give to Christ the heart he bought: with joy he will you win;
As Christ your soul has sought, whose love will not give in,
So shall you to bliss be brought, and heaven dwell within.
The style of love is this, where it is tried and true:
Constant to stay in steadiness and change for no one new.
Each life which love can find, before the heart it knew,
Turns from grief to nature kind and with joy lives in virtue.
Love Christ then, I entreat, as I can you tell,
And with angels take your seat; such joy see you don't sell.
On earth hate now no plight, save what might love dispel;
Greater than death is love's own might, love is as hard as hell.
Love is a light burden, love gladdens young and old,
Love is without all pain, as lovers have me told;
Love is a holy wine, which makes men brave and bold.
Love shall no jot decline once we in heart it hold.
Love is the sweetest thing that man on earth has known;
Love is God's own darling; love binds by blood and bone.
In love be our liking, I know not a better home;
For me and my loving, by love we're both made one.
But earthly lovers fare as flowers do in May,
And will endure no more than does one single day.
And sorrow then most sore for their lust, their pride, their play,
When they are tossed to care, to pain that lasts for aye.
When earth and air shall burn, then may they quake and dread,
For up must rise all men and answer for each deed;
If they are caught in sin, as now their lives they lead,
Hell's fire they must sit in and darkness have as meed.
Rich men their hands must wring, wicked deeds repenting duly;
In flame of fire both knight and king in sorrow and shame must lie.
If you will love, then may you sing, to Christ in melody;
The love of him overcomes each thing; in love let's live and die.
I sigh and sob both day and night for One so bright of hue.
There is no thing my heart ease might save love that's ever new.
Whoever had him in his sight, or in his heart him knew,
His mourning would turn to delight, his longing to joy true.
In mirth he lives both night and day whose love is that sweet Child:
Jesu it is, in truth I say, meekest of all and mild.
Wrath would from him go away, though he were never so wild,
Each who ill heart loved him that day, from evil would he shield.
Of Jesu then most must I speak, who can my griefs delete.
My heart I feel could simply break when I think of that Sweet;
In love he has laced up my thought; this shall I never forget:
Most dearly, yes, he has me bought with bloody hands and feet.
For love my heart is forced to burst that Fair One to behold.
Love is fair once it is fast, and never will grow cold.
Love deprives us our night's rest, through grace it makes us bold.
Of all actions love is the best, as holy men have told.
No wonder I should sighing be, and now by sorrow am beset:
Jesu was nailed upon the tree; bloodily they him beat;
Consider him with deep pity, how tenderly he wept;
This suffered he for you, truly, if sin alone you'd let.
There is no tongue on earth may tell of all love's sweetness;
Who steadfastly in love can dwell, his joy is endless.
God forbid he go to Hell who loves and longing is,
Or that his enemies him should kill, or make his love be less.
Jesu is love which lasts for ay: for him is our longing.
Jesu the night turns into day, the ebbing to flooding.
Jesu, think on us all for aye, for you we take as King.
Jesu, give us grace, as you well may, to love you without ending.
A Salutation to Jesus
Hail Jesu, my Creator, of sorrowing the cure;
Hail Jesu, my Savior, for me suffering torture;
Hail Jesu, help and succor, to you love I assure;
Hail Jesu, blessed flower of maiden mother pure.
Hail Jesu, leader to light, in soul you are most sweet;
Your love shines both day and night, which strengthens me on this street.
Lend me longing for your sight, and give me grace to weep;
For you, Jesu, have the might my sorrows away to sweep.
Jesu, with grace my heart inspire, to bliss may it me bring:
On you I place all my desire, you are my love-longing;
Your love is burning like the fire which ever up will spring;
Far from me put pride and anger: for them I've no loving.
Hail Jesu, prize for which I pray, Lord of Majesty.
You are joy which lasts for aye, all delight you are to see.
Give me grace, as you well may, your lover now to be.
My longing will never go away, till I come to your knee.
Jesu, to love may I be keen, you are my heavenly good.
Alas, my God, like a ruffian, is nailed on the rood:
His tender veins begin to burst, all running with blood;
Hands and feet with nails are fast: this changes all my mood.
Jesu, my King, to me is dear, who with his blood me bought:
Spread with spittle is his flesh clear, to death by beating brought;
For me he suffered pains severe: I am the wretch he wrought.
Therefore they press my heart most near; of them forget I nought.
Jesu, fortune of every fight, grace grant me to succeed,
That I may love you right, and have you as my meed.
Your love is firm through each tempting, there always at our need:
As you through grace are my yearning, in to your light me lead.
Thy Joy Be
Be it your joy to intend to serve your God alway;
The wealth the world misspends, see how it slips away;
Try now this to comprehend: with you it lasts for ay,
And your care shall mend, your pain turn into play.
On Christ now set your thought, hating all wrath and pride,
And think how he you bought with wounds so deep and wide.
When you that Man have sought, well-being will betide;
Of riches care right nought, so he from Hell you hide.
They turn their day to night, who love this earthly sin,
And slain are in that flight where we our life shall win;
Those who love not aright and ever anew begin
They lose the land of light and Hell sit deep within.
Do as I you persuade, lift heart in adoration;
Say to him who was dead "Christ, you are my salvation,"
Sin sinks down like lead, falls far from destination;
Therefore steady your steed, since spurring will not hasten.
Learn to love your King whose love will ever last;
Keep him in your musing, and fasten his love so fast.
That no worldly thinking by quibbling it outcast;
Your song and your sweeting he will be at the last.
In Christ be your solace, let his love give you cheer:
With joy follow his trace, and seek to sit him near;
Ever seeking his face you will make your soul clear;
High he appoints your place who in love persevere.
Keep his commandments ten; hold back from mortal sin;
Forsake the games of men, that you his love may win,
Your heart from him shall burn, your love never decline,
Longing will you liven Heaven to dwell within.
Think now on his meekness, how poorly he was born;
Behold his bloody flesh: his head is pricked by thorn,
Your love must not grow less; he saved you, all forlorn,
To serve him in sweetness, to that we have all sworn.
Make firm your heart to flee from all your worldly care,
Till you in rest may be; save now your soul most bare.
His love take unto you and love him more and more,
His face that you may see when you shall from here fare.
In time of temptation of love you have great need
To steady you stably and give grace to succeed;
Live forever with your King, in his love to feed;
Very little is my knowing to write of his fair head.
Love him well with all your might, while you are living here,
And look well to your sight, to you be none else dear.
Say to him day and night: "When may I draw you near?
Lead me up to your light, your melody to hear."
To that life be taken where you may be ever living;
Give him your love as token that you would with him sing;
Joy in your breast has woken when you are him loving;
Your soul then has he fed, in sweetest love burning.
(All Vanities Forsake)
All empty things forsake if you his love will feel;
Your heart to him donate: he can keep it so well.
Your mirth no man may slake, God's joy it is you feel.
Your thought never let quake, your love never dispel.
From sin's great bitterness your way now fast you set;
This world's low wickedness may it not with you meet;
This earthly fussiness, which brings men such regret,
Will make your love much less, if that is your target.
All of us love some thing, thinking with reason's skill,
In it thus delighting when it comes to us still;
So do Christ's own bidding and love him well, by his will,
Whose love has no ending in joy without evil.
Those who love bodily are likened to the swine,
In filth let themselves lie, their fairness undermined.
Their love departs poorly, plunged where they sore repine.
More sweet is love holy, which never will decline.
If you love, while you may, the King of Majesty,
Your woe departs away, happiness hies to you,
Your night turns into day, may your bliss ever be.
When you are as I say, I beg you: think of me.
Our thoughts now let us set: together in Heaven to dwell,
For there the good are met whom Christ holds back from Hell.
When we our sins regret then great news we may tell:
That we from far have fetched the love none shall dispel.
The world, cast it behind, say, "Sweet Jesu, consent
Me fast in love to bind; give me grace to lament;
By your love make me kind: I am with love ardent
That I your love may find: such good my grief must stint.
"With love wound me within, and to your light me lead.
Now make me pure from sin, that death I may not dread.
As you to save mankind suffered your sides to bleed,
Give me the grace to win the sight of you as meed."
His love is tried and true, for those who him adore.
Since first that I it knew, recovered I am from care.
I found it ever new to teach me God's own lore,
And now I need not rue that I have suffered sore.
In love keep heart on high: try the Devil's wiles to end;
Your day's diversity all sadness will suspend.
When death approaches nigh, and you must from here wend.
You shall see him with eye, and come to Christ, your friend.
Make firm yourself to feast in Christ your desiring;
And choose him as the best, he is your wedded King;
For joy your heart shall burst to have such a sweeting;
I think it worst of all to love one other thing.
His love is life to all who living well must be;
Lead him through your portal: let him not from you flee.
Full soon he will you call, your seat is kept with glee.
And have you in his hall, forever his face to see.
This meed for you I name, to rouse your mind to fire,
And make your love the same, in truth, as your own sire:
Each who to love might aim, if he be love's denier,
To suff'ring turns his game; he asked for such poor hire.
Sin that is so sour, give it in you no scope,
Of love take you the flower, so you can play with hope;
Sweeter is the savor than of field or wood-slope.
Seat him as your succor: as leech of limb to cope.
Take Jesu in your thinking, his love he will you send;
Your love and your liking, to him you must both lend.
Take good care of praying: that you can always mend,
So shall you love your King in Joy without all end.
1. Song of Songs 5:2. The imagery of the first paragraph is based on 2 Corinthians
2. Rolle assumes a derivation from the root s_râph, "to burn"; there is
some dispute as to whether the word used for a type of serpent in the Pentateuch
s_râph, may or may not be connected. The seraphim of Isaiah 6:2 may have
been originally conceived as lightning or fiery flying serpents. The association
of seraphim with fire has a venerable liturgical history. Rolle inevitably places
contemplatives with the seraphim because of their experience of "the fire of love";
Gregory also has this schema for the orders of contemplatives, but Dante puts
St. Francis among the seraphim. Depictions of the nine orders were common on windows,
roodscreens and frescoes in parish churches.
3. Gregory first defined three grades of contemplatives. The threefold mystic
way probably derived from the pseudo-Dionysius the Areopagite, and was developed
especially by St. Bonaventure. Richard of St. Victor has a fourfold gradation,
and Rolle applies the names of the first three of these to the threefiold scheme
of Gregory in his other three epistles.
4. Scribes always muddle numbers, and usually exaggerate. Here some manuscripts
read "seven hundred" (e.g. Longleat), and some read "seven thousand"; MS C reads
"seven hundred thousand."
5. MS C reads "five," which may be another instance of scribal emphasis, could
be an allusion to the loaves of the miracle of the feeding of the five thousand.
This devotion to the Holy Name occurs in all three English letters; in ED
and Commandment it is part of the practice of the second degree; it is
mentioned there in The Form too, but there a more refined devotion to Jesus
also takes place in the highest grade.
6. Rolle uses the word mantel. This was a sleeveless garment worn over
the tunic or kirtle, and under the cloak. It was really a kind of coat, necessary
for indoor wear in draughty castles and wattle and daub cots alike.
7. The term here is kirtle, a tunic worn, at different lengths, by both
sexes, usually as an outer garment, although men might wear it under armor, and
ladies would wear it over the smock, and wear on top of it the sleeveless and
often open-sided mantel. Out of doors, a cloak or shawl would be worn over
8. This is the title given in the margin of MS C. The first three stanzas are
derived from two Latin meditations: Respice in faciem Christi, and Candet
Nudatum Pectus. The latter is ascribed to Anselm, but here in ED they
appear through an intermediary version of Rolle's own in Incendium Amoris,
Cap. 27. Stanzas 5-7 derive from Incendium Cap.42. The version of Candet
Nudatum Pectus Rolle used was a Middle English translation, extant in Bodley
MS 42: "White was his naked breast and red with blood his side/ Bloody was his
fair face, his wounds so deep and wide/ Stiff were his arms outspread upon the
rood/ In five places on his body streams ran with blood."
9. First in ring: The allusion is to the caroles, ring dances like
"ring o' roses," where a leader within the ring sang the verses of a long narrative
song, while those forming the ring by joining hands would move in a clockwise
circle to their left as they sang the refrain. In The Form, Chap.6. This
and the following two stanzas derive from Incendium Cap.42, which reads:
"amor ...coream ducit."
10. The lyric Cantus Amoris which follows contains similar lines in stanza
2, probably derived from Jesu Dulcis Memoria.
11. This echoes Rolle's experience of the "opening of heaven" nearly three years
after he embarked on his eremitical life. This was not just the experience of
a novice, but, to judge from this passage, a constant feature of his mystic experience.
12. What Rolle craved was quiet, rather than seclusion for its own sake. He probably
had to rely on patrons all his life as a solitary, and therefore could not be
wholly apart from the world. Like St. Gregory, whose example he looked to, he
had to cultivate inner peace amid the world's affairs. Many hermits supported
themselves by maintaining roads, ferries, bridges, hospitals or chapels precisely
so that they could achieve independence from others, but in the very tasks they
maintained themselves by, they lost their quiet.
13. "Langyng" and the Latin languor, langueo are favorite expressions
in Rolle, occurring in Incendium (Caps. 32,42), in Melos, and in
Chap. 8 of The Form; see also The Song of Love Longing in the Appendix.
14. Based on Jesu Dulcis Memoria; the Cantus Amoris in Chap.8 of
the The Form contains lines similar to these.
15. This line is obscure: It has some feudal connection, continuing the images
of "tower" and "hall," and must refer to some kind of tester or banner over the
seating at a feast, rather than a funeral hatchment over a tomb. Comper (p.232)
associates the image with John 14:2.
16. MS C concludes: "Here ends the treatise of Richard Hermit of Hampole written
to a certain nun of Yedingham." This colophon has no authority, and it is even
possible that this epistle was written to Margaret Kirkby; Dr. Ogilvie-Thomson
has suggested that it may have been written to Margaret before her clothing as
a nun (An Edition of English Works in MS Longleat 29, Ph.D. diss., Oxford,
1980, p. 451.)