The Form of Perfect Living and Other Prose Treatises
by Richard Rolle of Hampole
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- Transcriber's Note: Obvious typographical errors have been corrected in this text. For a complete list, please see the end of this document. -




Rendered into Modern English by Geraldine E. Hodgson, D.Litt., Lecturer in Education in the University of Bristol.

London: Thomas Baker, 72, Newman Street, W. 1910.

Printed By W. C. Hemmons, St. Stephen Street, Bristol.

"Love is a life, joining together the loving and the loved."

"Truth may be without love, but it cannot help without it."


(The Form of Perfect Living, ch. x.).


This book is not intended for those who are acquainted with Anglo-Saxon and Middle English; but for those who care for the thought, specially the religious and devotional thought, of our forefathers. My one aim has been to make a portion of that thought accurately intelligible to modern readers, with the greatest possible saving of trouble to them. When I could use the old word or phrase, with certainty of its being understood, I have done so. When I could not, I have replaced it with the best modern equivalent I could find or invent. In extenuation of the occasional use of Rolle's expression, "by their lone," I may urge its expressiveness, the absence of an equivalent, and the fact that it may still be heard in remote places. Where possible, I have retained the archaic order of the original Text. Such irregular constructions, as e.g., the use of a singular pronoun in the first half of a sentence, and of a plural in the second half, I have left unaltered; for the meaning was perfectly clear. In short, I have endeavoured to make Richard Rolle as he was as significant as possible to English men and women of to-day as they are, when they are not professed students of English language. In such an undertaking, it is obvious that I must have presented endless vulnerable places to the learned. I can only repeat that the book was never meant for them, but for those who will perhaps forgive me if I describe them as specialists in religious thought rather than in English Language.

The rendering is made from the texts printed by Professor Horstman in his Library of Early English Writers: Richard Rolle of Hampole an English Father of the Church.


The University, Bristol, S. Mary Magdalene, 1910.



Preface vii.

Introduction xi.

The Form of Perfect Living 1

Our Daily Work (a Mirror of Discipline). (From the Arundel MS.) 83

On Grace. (From the Arundel MS.) 169

An Epistle on Charity 185

Contrition 190

Scraps from the Arundel MS. 192


Richard Rolle of Hampole is the earliest in time of our famous English Mystics. Born in or about 1300, he died in 1349, seven years after Mother Julian of Norwich was born. Walter Hilton died in 1392.

An exhaustive account of Rolle's life is given in Vol. ii. of Professor Horstman's Edition of his works, a book unfortunately out of print. The main facts are recorded in a brief "Life" appended to Fr. R. Hugh Benson's A Book of the Love of JESUS. Therefore, it will suffice to say here that Richard Rolle seems to have been born at Thornton, near Pickering, in Yorkshire, in or about 1300; that, finding the atmosphere of Oxford University uncongenial, he left it, and for some four years was supported, as a hermit, by the Dalton Family. By the end of that time, through prayer, contemplation and self-denial, he had attained the three stages of mystical life which he describes as calor, dulcor, canor; (heat, sweetness, melody.) The next period of his life was less easy. Having left the protection of the Daltons, and being without those means of subsistence which are within the reach of priest or monk, this hermit depended for his daily bread on other men's kindness. Not that he was a useless person: apart from the utility of a life of Prayer, he could point to counsel and exhortation given; to the existence of converts consequent upon his ministrations. To add to his difficulties, he preached a doctrine of high pure selflessness with which, the average man, in all times, seems to have no abundant sympathy: and to crown all he was endowed by nature with a sensitive temper. His remarkable gifts forced him into public notice; his cast of thought and his temperament were not calculated to win him ease or popularity. Professor Horstman is peculiarly severe to those among his enemies and detractors "who called themselves followers and disciples of Christ." The insertion here of this painful passage would introduce a jarring note; moreover, the raked embers of past controversy seldom tend to the spiritual improvement of the present. An interesting judgment by Professor Horstman on Rolle's place in mysticism is too long for quotation; but the following sentence may be taken as the pith of it:—"His position as a mystic was mainly the result of the development of scholasticism. The exuberant luxuriant growth of the brain in the system of Scotus called forth the reaction of the heart, and this reaction is embodied in Richard Rolle, who as exclusively represents the side of feeling as Scotus that of reason and logical consequence; either lacking the corrective of the other element."

It is consoling to know that Rolle's last years were passed in peace, in a cell, near a monastery of Cistercian nuns at Hampole, where the nuns supported him, while he acted as their spiritual adviser.

In the book mentioned above, Fr. Hugh Benson has translated some of Richard Rolle's Poems, and certain devotional Meditations. In this Volume, four of his Prose Treatises have been selected from the rest of his works, in the belief that they may supplement those parts of Rolle's writings with which, those who are interested in these phases of thought, are already familiar.

The first, The Form of Perfect Living, is a Rule of Life which he wrote for a nun of Anderby, Margaret Kirkby, of whom Professor Horstman writes: "She seems to have been his good angel, and perhaps helped to smooth down his ruffled spirits. This friendship was lasting—it lasted to their lives' ends."

This treatise was written of course to meet the requirements of the "religious" life. It has seemed expedient, because supplementary, then, to put next to it his work on Our Daily Life, which was meant for those who are "in the world"; and which may give pause to some who might otherwise criticise the first hastily, perhaps condemning it as unpractical, or even objectionable in a world where, after all, men must eat and drink and live, and where some, therefore must provide the necessary means. Most intensely practical is this second treatise, and perhaps nowhere more so than when it meets the needs of those who are inclined to split straws over the definition of the word "good." What is a good action?—such people love to inquire, and like "jesting Pilate," sometimes do not "stay for an answer." Richard Rolle has no manner of doubt about his reply. An action must be good in itself, i.e., so he would tell us, pleasing to God in its own nature. But the matter by no means ends there for him. This good action must be performed,—and it is this which is, now palpably, now subtly, hard—entirely for the sake of goodness, without the slightest taint of self-seeking, of vanity, of secret satisfaction that we are not as other men are, not even as this Pharisee or this Publican.

Such a motive, inspiring each person's whole work, would surely go far to remove what is known as the Social Problem. It would make many a house the dwelling of peace, many a business-place an abode of honour. If we could get back to Richard Rolle's simplicity and to his unmovable faith, then, his goal, even the acquisition of perfect love, might seem to all of us less distressingly remote.

The present rendering has been taken from the longer and more elaborate of the two MSS. containing the Treatise. The shorter form of his work On Grace and the Epistle have been added in the hope that they may meet the need of all, contemplative or active as they may chance to be.

There is, among his voluminous writings, a curious and interesting Revelation concerning Purgatory, purporting to be a woman's dream about one, Margaret, a soul in Purgatory. Amidst much natural horror, not however exceeding that described by Dante, there are many quaint side-lights thrown upon our forefathers' ways of thought; as e.g., when Margaret's soul is weighed in one scale, against the fiend, "and a great long worm with him," in the other; the worm of conscience, in fact. But the work has not been included in this volume, lest it should prove wholly unprofitable to a generation which if it be not readily disturbed by sin, is easily and quickly shocked by crude suggestions concerning its possible consequences and reward. They will find enough, perhaps, in the treatise on Daily Work.

If any one should think that there, and in one portion of the treatise on Grace, Rolle has dwelt harshly on considerations of fear, rather than on those of love, he must not make the mistake of concluding that these admonitions represent the whole of Catholic teaching on the point. Men's temperaments differ, and teachers, meeting these various tempers, differ in their modes of helping them. Side by side with Richard Rolle may be put the words of S. Francis Xavier, in what is perhaps the most beautiful of Christian hymns:—

My GOD, I love Thee; not because I hope for heaven thereby, Nor yet because who love Thee not Are lost eternally.

. . . . . .

Not for the hope of gaining aught, Not seeking a reward; But as Thyself hast loved me, O ever-loving Lord!

Moreover, no reader of the Epistle on Charity can entertain any doubt as to whether our English Mystic understood the mystery of limitless love.

It is no doubt, easy to complain, as we read certain passages, that Richard Rolle's recommendations are neither new nor original: but if instead of dismissing them as familiar, we tried to put them into practice, we should perhaps have less leisure for idle criticism of others, and ourselves be less evil and tiresome people.

On the other hand, the accusation may be brought that he proposes an impossibly high aim. No doubt, in such a pitch of devotion as is suggested, e.g., in ch. viii. of The Form of Perfect Living, some may think they find extravagance: but no doubt it was this same spirit which inspired SS. Peter and Paul, and the other Apostles; which built up the Early Church; which made Saints, Martyrs and Confessors; which suggested such apparently forlorn hopes as that of S. Augustine of Canterbury, when, to bring them the Gospel of JESUS Christ, he bearded the rough Men of Kent, and (according to Robert of Brunne) reaped, as his immediate reward, a string of fishtails hung on his habit, though later, the conversion of these sturdy pagans. It was doubtless, too, the spirit which inspired the best men and women in the English Church, before they began to confuse the spheres of Faith and Reason, and to disregard S. Hilary's warning about the difficulty of expressing in human language that which is truly "incomprehensible,"—incomprehensible in the old sense, as in the Athanasian Symbol, "Immensus Pater, immensus Filius, immensus Spiritus sanctus"; till, indeed, men forgot, for all practical purposes that infinity transcends the grasp of finite minds (in fact, as well as in placidly accepted and then immediately neglected theory); and can be apprehended only, and that imperfectly, by the best aspirations of a heart, set of fixed purpose on that high goal.

To the modern Englishman, immersed in business anxieties, imperial interests and domestic cares, the invitation repeated so often by Richard Rolle, to love GOD supremely, may seem incalculably unreal and remote, even though he might hesitate to confess it baldly. But what if the Englishman who so loved GOD, were also the greater Englishman? And what answer does history return to that plain question?

"Richard Rolle," Professor Horstman does not hesitate to write "was one of the most remarkable men of his time, yea, of history. It is a strange and not very creditable fact that one of the greatest of Englishmen has hitherto been doomed to oblivion. In other cases, the human beast first crucifies, and then glorifies or deifies the nobler minds, who swayed by the Spirit, do not live as others live, in quest of higher ideals by which to benefit the race; he, one of the noblest champions of humanity, a hero, a saint, a martyr in this cause has never had his resurrection yet—a forgotten brave. And yet, he has rendered greater service to his country, and to the world at large, than all the great names of his time. He rediscovered Love, the principle of Christ. He reinstalled feeling, the spring of life which had been obliterated in the reign of scholasticism. He re-opened the inner eye of man, teaching contemplation in solitude, an unworldly life in abnegation, in chastity, in charity.... He broke the hard crust that had gathered round the heart of Christianity, by formalism and exteriority, and restored the free flow of spiritual life."

This passage, to those who feel that there has been no age since the Birth of Christ when the great principles of religious life have been wholly lost, and who remember that Richard Rolle lived in the age of Dante, may seem overstated. But it shews sufficiently at least, and for that reason is quoted here, what a great Englishman he was, and what a debt his unaware countrymen owe him; a debt which they could pay in the way most grateful to him, by listening to his words.

It may be remarked, by the way, that Rolle is not inclined to substitute individualism for the authority of the Church; a change which has been brought against some mystics. There is immense emphasis laid, all through his writings, on the importance of conduct. The penetrating analysis, in ch. vi, of The Form of Perfect Living, of the possible sins humanity can commit on its journey through the wilderness of this world, hardly leaves a corner of the heart unlighted; lets not one possible shift, twist or excuse of the human conscience go free. But it all has the Church as its immediate background; the Mystical Body, not the individual soul in isolation, is everywhere taken for granted. Man lives not to himself nor dies to himself, even though he be Richard Rolle the hermit, or Margaret Kirkby the recluse, that is the plain teaching of these plain-speaking pages. And all through them too is a tough common sense, and an unusually alert power of observation; and there is perhaps an element of that business capacity, which some of the Saints and Mystics have shewn, in his inclusion among "sins of deed" of "beginning a thing that is above our might"; for in that there is not only pride, but a kind of stupid incapacity surely.

It is quite possible that Rolle's tendency to repetition may tire any one who reads him "straight on," as the phrase is. But it is doubtful whether that be the best means of approach. If he be read in bits, he will prove far more effective: and his ability to hit the right nail on the head, and to hit it wonderfully hard, may occasionally bring his words home to our immediate circumstances with an appositeness that may be more than a coincidence.

In the past, the learned and ignorant alike have been guilty of the operation which may be described as cutting man up into parts: i.e., they have been inclined to treat him now as if he were all intellect, then as if he were all feeling; while to the will a kind of intermediate part has generally been allotted, as if it were the handmaid instead of the master of the other two. And there is still, in some quarters, a tendency to relegate the will and the feelings to an inferior plane, if indeed they be allowed any place at all. In other quarters, the onslaught is made on intellect. Men are bidden to be humble, to become as little children; as if there were any humility in thinking incorrectly or not at all; as if the odd, though suppressed, assumption that children have no intellects had any ground in fact. It is surely a true apostrophe—

"GOD! Thou art mind! Unto the master-mind, Mind should be precious."

The Angelic Doctor himself paid a tribute to the importance and special difficulties of intellect, and also to the necessity of uniting it with will:—"the martyrs had greater merit in faith, not receding from the faith for persecutions; and likewise men of learning have greater merit of faith, not[1] receding from the faith for the reasons of philosophers or heretics alleged against it." Richard Rolle, following on the same lines as S. Thomas Aquinas, has nothing of this spirit of division: the whole being is what he would fain see offered to GOD, whether it be so by Margaret Kirkby, or by those who are "in the world," for whom Our Daily Work was written. In the image of GOD was man made, and therefore GOD suffices for all the needs of man's nature: that, at least seems to be the underlying idea when Rolle writes:—"GOD is light and burning. Light clarifies our reason, burning kindles our will." May we not say here too?—"What GOD has joined together, that let not man put asunder."

Above all things, Rolle aims at a perfect balance, culminating in a harmony ruled by one power, and that the greatest in the world, Love. Real love, he asks; not the degraded things to which men give that great name, as to every passing gust of feeling, to every unworthy untamed emotion: but the divine quality, when to the "lastingness," which he requires, is also joined that which is the inner essence of Love, viz., sacrifice. "Love is a life," he writes, "joining together the loving and the loved." And then he remembers the other great gift to men, intellectual sincerity, which has inspired all "who follow Truth along her star-paved way"; and he gives to that its place and due: "Truth may be without love: but it cannot help without it." Even then, the whole tale is not complete; the way of the Saints is not "Primrosed and hung with shade." Love, with Rolle, is no easy sentimentality: it involves definite sacrifice in more directions than one; it demands thought, perseverance, supernatural strength, natural strenuousness; it is not a selfish enjoyment of a circumambient atmosphere wrapping humanity, without responsibility or effort of its own: "Love is a Life."

"Love," he writes, "is a perfection of learning; virtue of prophecy; fruit of truth; help of sacraments; establishing of wit and knowledge; riches of pure men: life of dying men. So, how good love is. If we suffer to be slain; if we give all that we have (down) to a beggar's staff: if we know as much as men may know on earth, all this is naught but ordained sorrow and torment." Then, with that sound sense, which is not the least element in the sum of his attractiveness, he utters a subtle warning against that all too common sin, judging one another: "If thou wilt ask how good is he or she, ask how much he or she loves: and that no man can tell. For I hold it folly to judge a man's heart, that none knows save GOD."

After this it cannot be necessary to say that Rolle is a true mystic. "Many," so he tells us in this same chapter x., "Many speak and do good, and love not GOD." But that will not suffice his exacting demands. A man is not "good" until his interior disposition be all filled and taken up with pure love of GOD. And as he analyses the Christian Character, there is a pleasant blunt directness about this holy man:—"he that says he loves GOD and will not do what is in him to shew love, tell him that he lies."

It is possible that the alarming list of sins of the heart, in chapter vi., may give the heedless and even the heedful matter for grave thought, as each one finds himself ejaculating with spontaneous fear—"Who can tell how oft he offendeth? Cleanse thou me from my secret faults."

Surely no one need fear that the outcome of a study of Richard Rolle will be effeminacy. Not that that indeed is the special temptation of the English: a chill commonplace acquiescence in a convenient, if baseless, hope that somehow "things will come all right," is far more likely to lead them astray than any "burning yearning to GOD with a wonderful delight and certainty." Is not George Herbert's cry apposite still?

"O England, full of sin, but most of sloth!"

Nor can any one argue fairly that this absorption of the mystic is just selfish idleness. It is, so it seems, as we read Rolle's injunctions, of the nature of hard exacting toil. No doubt, there must be those who do the material work of the world; who gain, among other things, those "goods" which go to support the Mystics. But there will be no lack of such workers, through the inroads of religion; the broad ways of daily life are in no danger of contracting suddenly in to the path to the strait gate. Moreover, natural life itself is a poor thing unsupported by an unseen stream of spiritual refection. Here, as elsewhere in the ordered economy of things, two forms of life are found to be complementary. It is true, as Dr. Bigg once wrote:—"If Society is to be permeated by religion, there must be reservoirs of religion like those great storage places up among the hills which feed the pipes by which water is carried to every home in the city. We shall need a special class of students of GOD, men and women whose primary and absorbing interest it is to work out the spiritual life in all its purity and integrity."[2] It is indeed the idlest of criticism that condemns such people as slothful or selfish.

There is one charm in our own Mystics which we may miss in S. John of the Cross or S. Teresa for example; viz., that with all their zeal, there is also an amazing reality and simplicity down at the bottom of it, which may seem to us not present in the rhapsodies of more southern lovers; though in all probability such seeming is purely racial. Nevertheless, we may be thankful if we find the antidote to our national prosaic ways in the sane zeal of others of our nation.

Lastly, as men read, they may be overcome perhaps by despair. This pure untainted selflessness of which Richard Rolle writes almost glibly, how can it be possible here and now? How can men and women, fixed in and condemned to the dusty ways of common life, unable as they are to leave the world even if they would, how can they so much as dream of such unattainable heights? Is there no help for them in the often quoted lines of a later English Mystic?—

"Who aimeth at the sky Shoots higher much than he who means a tree."

For plain men and women, the key to the problem may lie in the question put by Robert Browning into the mouth of Innocent XII.:—

"Is this our ultimate stage, or starting place To try man's foot, if it will creep or climb, 'Mid obstacles in seeming, points that prove Advantage for who vaults from low to high, And makes the stumbling-block a stepping-stone?"

Even though the goal be not reached, to have willed deliberately here the first step may prove to have been not wholly unavailing.


[1] Quoted by Fr. Joseph Rickaby, S.J., in Scholasticism, p. 121.

[2] Wayside Sketches, p. 135.

The Form of Perfect Living.

The Form of Perfect Living


Richard Rolle.


In every sinful man and woman that is bound in deadly sin, are three wretchednesses, the which bring them to the death of hell. The first is: Default of ghostly strength. That they are so weak within their heart, that they can neither stand against the temptations of the fiend, nor can they lift their will to yearn for the love of GOD and follow thereto. The second is: Use of fleshly desires:—for they have no will nor might to stand, they fall into lusts and likings of this world; and because they think them sweet, they dwell in them still, many till their lives' end, and so they come to the third wretchedness. The third is, Exchanging a lasting good for a passing delight: as who say they give endless joy for a little joy of this life. If they will turn them and rise to penance, GOD will ordain their dwelling with angels and with holy men. But because they choose the vile sin of this world, and have more delight in the filth of their flesh than in the fairness of heaven, they lose both the world and heaven. For he that hath not JESUS Christ loses all that he hath, and all that he is, and all that he might get. For he is not worthy of life, nor to be fed with swine's-meat. All creatures shall be stirred in His vengeance in the day of Doom. These wretchednesses that I have told you of are not only in worldly men and women, who use gluttony, lust, and other open sins: but they are also in others who seem in penance and godly life. For the devil that is enemy to all mankind, when he sees a man or a woman among a thousand, turn wholly to GOD, and forsake all the vanities and riches that men who love this world covet, and seek lasting joy, a thousand wiles he has in what manner he may destroy them. And when he can not bring them into such sins which might make all men wonder at them who knew them, he beguiles many so privily that they cannot oftentimes feel the trap that has taken them.

Some he takes with error that he puts them in. Some with singular wit, when he makes them suppose that the thing that they say or do is best; and therefore they will have no counsel of another who is better and abler than they; and this is a foul stinking pride; for such man would set his wit before all other. Some, the devil deceives through Vain-glory, that is idle joy; when any have pride and delight in themselves, of the penance that they suffer, of good deeds that they do, of any virtue that they have; are glad when men praise them, sorry when men blame them, have envy of them who are spoken better of than they. They consider themselves so glorious, and so far surpassing the life that other men lead, that they think that none should reprehend them in anything that they do or say; and despise sinful men, and others who will not do as they bid them. How mayst thou find a sinfuller wretch than such a one? And so much the worse is he because he knows not that he is evil, and is considered and honoured of men as wise and holy. Some are deceived by over-great lust and liking in meat and drink, when they pass measure and come into excess, and have delight therein; and they know not that they sin, and therefore they amend them not, and so they destroy virtues of soul. Some are destroyed with over-great abstinence of meat and drink and sleep. That is often temptation of the devil, for to make them fall in the midst of their work, so that they bring it to no ending as they should have done, had they known reason and had discretion; and so they lose their merit for their frowardness. This snare our enemy lays to take us with when we begin to hate wickedness, and turn us to GOD. Then many begin a thing that they can never more bring to an end: then they suppose that they can do whatsoever their heart is set on. But oftentimes they fall or ever they come midway; and that thing which they supposed was for them is hindering to them. For we have a long way to heaven, and as many good deeds as we do, as many prayers as we make, and as many good thoughts as we think in truth and hope and charity, so many paces go we heavenwards. Then, if we make us so weak and so feeble that we can neither work nor pray as we should do, nor think, are we not greatly to blame that fail when we had most need to be stalwart? And well I wot that it is not GOD'S will that we so do. For the prophet says: "Lord, I shall keep my strength to Thee," so that he might sustain GOD'S service till his death-day, and not in a little and a short time waste it, and then lie wailing and groaning by the wall. And it is much more peril than men suppose. For S. Jerome says that he makes an offering of robbery who outrageously torments his body by over-little meat or sleep. And S. Bernard says: "Fasting and waking hinder not spiritual goods, but help, if they be done with discretion; without that, they are vices." Wherefore, it is not good to torture ourselves so much, and afterwards to have displeasure at our deed. There have been many, and are who suppose it is naught all that they do unless they be in so great abstinence and fasting that all men speak of them who know them. But oftentimes it befalls that the more outward joy or wondering they have (on account) of the praising of men, the less joy they have within of the love of GOD. By my judgment, they should please JESUS Christ much more if they accepted for His sake—in thanking and praising Him, to sustain their body in His service and to withhold themselves from great speech of men—whatsoever GOD sent them in time and place, and gave themselves since entirely to the love and the praising of that Lord JESUS Christ: Who will stalwartly be loved, and lastingly be served, so that their holiness were more seen in GOD'S eye than in man's. For all the better thou art, and the less speech thou hast of men, the more is thy joy before GOD. Ah! how great it is to be worthy of love, and to be not loved. And what wretchedness it is, to have the name and the habit of holiness, and be not so; but to cover pride, ire or envy under the clothes of Christ's childhood. A foul thing it is to have liking and delight in the words of men who can no more deem what we are in our soul than they wot what we think. For ofttimes they say that he or she is in the higher degree that is in the lower; and whom they say is in the lower, is in the higher. Therefore I hold it to be but madness to be gladder or sorrier whether they say good or ill. If we be trying to hide us from speech and praise of this world, GOD will shew to us His praise, and our joy. For that is His joy when we are strength-full to stand against the privy and open temptation of the devil, and to seek nothing but the honour and praise of Him, and that we might entirely praise Him. And that ought to be our desire, our prayer and our intent, night and day, that the fire of His love kindle our hearts, and the sweetness of His grace be our comfort and our solace in weal and woe. Thou hast now heard a part how the fiend deceives, with his subtle craft, unknowing men and women. And if thou wilt do by good counsel and follow holy teaching, as I hope that thou wilt, thou shall destroy his traps, and burn in love's fire all the bands that he would bind thee with; and all his malice shall turn thee to joy, and him to more sorrow. GOD suffers him to tempt good men for their profit, that they may be the higher crowned, when they, through His help, have overcome so cruel an enemy, that oftentimes, both in body and soul, confounds many men.

In three manners, the devil has power to be in a man. In one manner, hurting the good they have by nature, as in dumb men, and in others, staining their thoughts. In another manner, snatching away the good that they have of grace: and so he is in sinful men whom he has deceived through delight of the world and of their flesh, and leads them with him to hell. In the third manner, he torments a man's body, as we read that he has done (to) Job. But wit thee well, if he beguile thee not within, thou needst not dread what he may do to thee without, for he may do no more than GOD gives him leave to do.


Because thou hast forsaken the solace and the joy of this world, and taken thee to solitary life, for GOD'S sake to suffer tribulation and anguish here, and afterwards to come to that bliss which never more ceases, I trow truly that the comfort of JESUS Christ, and the sweetness of His love, with the fire of the Holy Ghost, that purges all sin, shall be in thee, and with thee, leading thee and teaching thee how thou shalt think, how thou shalt pray, what thou shalt work, so that in a few years thou shalt have more delight to be by thy lone, and to speak to thy Love and thy Spouse JESUS Christ, Who is high in heaven, than if thou wert lady here of a thousand worlds. Men suppose that we are in torture and in penance great; but we have more joy and more very delight in a day than they have in the world all their life. They see our body: but they see not our heart where our solace is. If they saw that, many of them would forsake all that they have, for to follow us. Therefore, be comforted and stalwart, and dread no annoy or anguish: but fasten all thine intent in JESUS, that thy life be good and convenient; and look that there be nothing in thee that should be displeasing to Him that thou dost not soon amend it. The state which thou art in, which is solitude, is most able of all other to revelation of the Holy Ghost. For when S. John was in the Isle of Patmos, then GOD shewed him His secrets. The goodness of GOD it is that He comforts them wonderfully that have no comfort of the world, if they give their heart entirely to Him, and covet not nor seek but Him: then He gives Himself to them in sweetness and delight, in burning of love, and in joy and melody and dwells aye with them, in their soul, so that the comfort of Him departs never from them. And if they any time begin to err, through ignorance or frailty; soon He shews them the right way; and all that they have need of, He teaches them. No man to such revelation and grace on the first day may come; but through long travel and carefulness to love JESUS Christ, as thou shall here-afterward. Nevertheless, then he suffers them to be tempted in sore manners, both waking and sleeping. For aye the more temptations and the grievouser they stand against and overcome, the more they shall joy in His love when they are passed. Waking, they are sometimes tempted with foul thoughts, vile lusts, wicked delights, with pride, ire, envy, despair, presumption and other many. But their remedy shall be: Prayer: Weeping: Fasting: Waking. These things, if they be done with discretion, they put away sin and filth from the soul, and make it clean to receive the love of JESUS Christ, Who may not be loved, but in cleanness. Also, sometimes the fiend tempts men and women, who are solitary, by their love in a quaint manner and a subtle: he transfigures himself in the likeness of an angel of light, and appears to them, and says he is one of GOD'S angels come to comfort them, and so he deceives fools. But they that are wise and will not quickly trust to all spirits, but ask counsel of knowing men, he can not beguile them. Also, I find written of a recluse, that was a good woman, to whom the ill-angel oft-times appeared in the form of a good angel, and said that he was come to bring her to heaven. Wherefore, she was right glad and joyful. But nevertheless, she told it to her Shrift-father, and he, as a wise man and wary, gave her this counsel. When he comes, he said, bid him that he shew thee our Lady, S. Mary. When he has done so, say Ave Maria. She did so. The fiend said: "Thou hast no need to see her; my presence suffices to thee." And she said by all means she would see her. He saw that it behoved him either to do her will, or she would despise him: so quickly, he brought forth the fairest woman that might be as to her sight, and shewed to her. And she set her on her knees and said, Ave Maria. And so quickly all vanished away, and for shame never after came he to her. This I say not, because I hope he shall have leave to tempt thee in this manner, but because I will that thou beware, if any such temptation befall thee sleeping or waking, that thou trust not over quickly till thou knowest the truth. More privily he transfigures himself into an angel of light—that commonly all men are tempted with—when he hides ill under the likeness of good. And that is in two manners. One is, when he eggs us on to over-great ease and rest of body, and softness to our flesh, for need to sustain our nature. For such thoughts he puts in us: that unless we eat well, and drink well, and sleep well, and lie soft and sit warm, we can not serve GOD, nor last in the labour that we have begun. But he thinks to bring us to over-great pleasure. Another is, when under the likeness of ghostly good, he entices us to sharp and over-great penance, for to destroy ourselves; and says thus: "Thou wot'st well that he who suffers most penance for GOD'S love, he shall have most meed. Therefore eat little, and feeble meat; and drink less, the thinnest drink is good enough to thee. Reck not of sleep: wear the hair-shirt and the habergeon. All thing that is affliction for thy flesh, do it; so that there may be none that can pass thee in penance. He that speaks thee thus, is about to slay thee with over-great abstinence; as he that said the other to slay thee with over-little. Therefore, if we will be rightly disposed, it behoves us to set ourselves in a good mean, and that we may destroy our vices and hold our flesh under, and nevertheless that it should be stalwart in the service of JESUS Christ. Also, our enemy will not suffer us to be in rest when we sleep, but then he is about to beguile us in many manners. Sometimes, with ugly images, for to make us afraid and to make us hateful of our state: sometimes with fair images, fair sights and that seem comfortable; for to make us glad in vain, and make us think we are better than we are. Sometimes, tells us we are holy and good, for to bring us into pride; [sometimes says we are wicked and sinful for to make us fall into despair.] But He Who is Ordainer of all things, suffers not that our sleep be without reward to us, if we dress our life to His Will. And wit thou well, thou sinnest not sleeping, if waking thou beest evermore without excess of meat and drink, and without ill-thoughts. But many a one the devil has deceived, through dreams, when he has made them set their heart on them. For he has shewn them some truth, but afterwards beguiled them with one that was false. Therefore says the wise man that many cares follow dreams; and they fell that hoped in them. Wherefore that thou beest not beguiled with them, I will that thou wit that there are six manners of dreams. Two are, that no man, holy or other, may escape: they are, if their stomach be over-empty or over-full; then many vanities, in sore manners, befall them sleeping. The third is of illusions of our enemy. The fourth is, of thought before and of illusions following. And the fifth through the revelation of the Holy Ghost, that is done in many a manner. The sixth is, of thoughts before that are due to Christ or Holy Church, revelation coming after. In thus many manners, the image of dreams touches men when they sleep. But so much the less shall we give faith to any dream, because we can not wit which is truth, which is false; which is of our enemy, which is of the Holy Ghost. For where many dreams are, there are many vanities. And many they may make to err, for they set up unwise men, and so deceive them.


I know that thy life is given to the service of GOD. Then is it shame to thee, unless thou beest as good, or better, within thy soul, as thou art seeming in the sight of men. Turn therefore thy thoughts perfectly to GOD, as it seems that thou hast done thy body. For I will not that thou shouldest ween that all are holy that have the habit of holiness, and are not occupied with the world. Nor that all are ill who discourse of earthly business. But they only are holy, what state or degree they be in, the which despise all earthly things, that is to say, love it not; and burn in the love of JESUS Christ; and all their desires are set to the joy of heaven, and hate all sin, and cease not from good works, and feel a sweetness in their heart of the love without end: and nevertheless, they think themselves vilest of all, and hold themselves wretchedest, least and lowest. This is holy men's life; follow it and be holy. And if thou wilt be in the Apostles' reward, think not what thou forsookest, but what thou despisest. For they who follow JESUS Christ in willing poverty, and in meekness, and in charity, and in patience, forsake as much as they can covet who follow Him not. And consider with how great and how good will thou presentest thy vows before Him: for on that He has set His eyes, and if thou with great desire offerest thy prayers, with great fervour desirest to see Him, and seekest no earthly comfort, but the savour of Heaven, and in contemplation thereof hast thy delight. Wonderfully JESUS works in His lovers, those whom he reaves from the pleasure of flesh and blood through tender love. He makes them to will no earthly thing, and makes them rise to the solace of Him, and to forget vanities and fleshly loves of the world, and to dread no sorrow that may fall: to diminish over-great bodily ease: to suffer for His love, seems to them joy; and to be solitary they have great comfort: so that they be not hindered of that devotion. Now mayst thou see that many are worse than they seem, and many are better than they seem, and namely among those that have the habit of holiness. Therefore force thyself, in all that thou mayest, that thou mayest be no worse than thou seemest. And if thou wilt do as I teach thee in this short form of living, I hope, through the grace of GOD, that if men hold thee to be good, thou shalt be well better.


At the beginning then, bow thee entirely to thy Lord JESUS Christ. That turning to JESUS is naught else but turning from all the covetousness and the liking and the occupations and business of worldly things and of fleshly lust and of vain love: so that thy thought, that was ever downward, burrowing in the earth, whilst thou wert in the world, now should be aye upward like fire; seeking the highest place in heaven, right to thy Spouse, where He sits in His bliss. To Him thou art turned, when His grace illumines thine heart; and forsakes all vices, and conforms it to virtues and good manners, and to all manner of compliance and debonairness. And that thou mayst last and grow in the goodness that thou hast begun without slowness, and sorriness, and irking of thy life; four things shalt thou have in thy thought, till thou beest in perfect love. For when thou art come thereto, thy joy and desire will aye be burning in Christ. One is: the measure of thy life here, that it is so short that scarcely is it anything. For we live but in a point—that is the least thing that may be. And soothly, our life is less than a point, if we liken it to the life that lasts aye. Another is: uncertainty of our ending. For we wot never when we shall die, nor where we shall die, nor how we shall die, nor whither we shall go when we are dead; and that GOD wills that this be uncertain to us, for He wills that we be aye ready to die. The third is: that we shall answer before the righteous Judge, for all the time that we have been here, how we have lived, what our occupation has been and why, and what good we might have done when we have been idle. Therefore said the prophet: "He has called thee times again," that is every day He has lent us here for to spend in good use, and in penance, and in GOD'S service. If we waste it in earthly love and in vanities, full grievously must we be condemned and punished; for that is one of the greatest sorrows that may be: unless we try manfully in the love of GOD, and do good to all that we may, while our short time lasts. And every time that we think not on God we may count it as the thing that we have lost. The fourth is: that we think how great the joy is that they have who last in GOD'S love to their ending. For they shall be brethren and fellows with angels and holy men, loving and thanking, praising and seeing the King of Joy in the beauty and in the shining of His majesty. The which sight shall be reward and food, and all delights that any creature may think, and more than any can tell, to all His lovers, without end. It is much easier to come to that bliss than to describe it. Also think what pain and what sorrow and tormenting they shall have who love not GOD above all things that one sees in this world, but defile their body in the pleasures and lusts of this life, in pride and greed and other sins; they shall burn in the fire of hell with the devil whom they served, as long as GOD is in heaven with His servants, that is evermore.


I will that thou beest aye climbing to JESUS-ward, and increasing thy love and thy service to Him; not as fools do; they begin in the highest degree and come down to the lowest. I say not that if thou hast begun unreasonable abstinence that thou hold it; but for many who were burning at the beginning and able to (capable of) the love of JESUS Christ, through over-great penance they have hindered themselves, and made themselves so feeble that they cannot love GOD as they should. In the which love that thou mayest wax aye more and more is my coveting and my admonition. I consider thee never of the less merit if thou beest not in so great abstinence; but if thou set all thy thought how thou mayest love thy Spouse JESUS Christ more than thou hast done, then dare I say that thy reward is waxing not waning.


Wherefore, that thou may'st be rightly disposed both for thy soul and thy body, thou shalt understand four things. The first thing is: what thing defiles a man. The second thing: what makes him clean. The third: what holds him in cleanness. The fourth: what thing draws him for to ordain his will entirely at GOD'S will. For the first, wit thou that we sin in three things that make us foul: that is with heart and mouth and deed. The sins of the heart are these: Ill-thought: ill delight: assent to sin: desire of ill; wicked will: ill suspicion: undevotion: if thou lettest thine heart any time be idle, without occupation of the love, of the praising of GOD: ill dread: ill love: error: fleshly affection to thy friends or to other that thou lovest: joy in any man's ill-faring, whether they be enemy or none: contempt of poor or sinful men: to honour rich men for their riches: unsuitable joy in any world's vanity: sorrow of the world: impatience: perplexity, that is doubt what to do and what not, for every man ought to be secure (about) what he shall do and what he shall leave: obstinacy in ill: annoyance (at having) to do good: sorrow that he did no more ill, or that he did not have that pleasure or that will of his flesh which he might have done: unstableness of thought: pain at penance: hypocrisy: love to please men: dread to displease them: shame of good deed: joy of ill deed: singular wit: desire for honour or dignity, or to be holden better than another, or richer, or fairer, or more to be dreaded: vain glory of any good of nature, of happening, or of grace: shame of poor friends: pride of rich or of gentle kin, for all we alike are free before GOD'S face, unless our deeds make any better or worse than another, in spite of good counsel and of good teaching. The sins of the mouth are these: to swear oftentimes: forswearing: slander of Christ or of any of His Saints; to name His name without reverence; gainsaying and strife against truthfulness; murmuring against GOD for any anguish or trouble or tribulation that may befall on earth: to say GOD'S Service undevoutly and without reverence: backbiting; flattering: lying: abusing: cursing: defaming: quarrelling: threatening: sowing of discord: treason: false-witness: ill counsel: scorn: unbuxomness in speech: to turn good deeds to ill: to make them be holden ill who do them: (we ought to wrap up our neighbours' deeds in the best not the worst); exciting any man to ire: reprehending in another what one does one's self: vain speech: much speech: foul speech: to speak idle words: or to speak words not needful: praising: polishing of words: defending sin: shouting with laughter: making grimaces at any man: to sing secular songs and to love them: to praise ill-deeds: to sing more for the glory of men than of GOD. The sins of deed are these: gluttony: lechery: drunkenness: simony: witch-craft: breaking of the holy-days: sacrilege: to receive GOD'S Body in deadly sin: breaking of vows: apostacy: dissipation in GOD'S service: to set example of ill deeds: to hurt any man in his body, or in his goods, or in his fame: theft: rapine: usury: deceit: selling of righteousness: to hearken ill: to give to harlots: to withhold necessaries from the body, or to give it to excess: to begin a thing that is above our might: custom to sin: falling often into sin: feigning of more good than we have: for to seem holier, more learned and wiser than we are: to hold office that we do not suffice to: or to hold one that cannot be held without sin: to lead dances: to bring up new fashions: to be rebellious against one's Sovereign: to insult those who are less: to sin in sight, in hearing, in smelling, in touching, in handling, in swallowing: in means: in signs: in beggings: writings. To receive the circumstances, that is to say time, place, manner, number, person, dwelling, knowledge, age, that makes thee sin more or less. To desire a sin or to be tempted: to constrain one to sin. Other many sins there are of omission, that is, of leaving good undone: when men leave the good they should do. Not thinking about GOD, nor dreading, nor praising Him, nor thanking Him for His gifts: to do not all that one does for love of GOD: to sorrow not for one's sins as one should do: not to dispose one's self to receive grace. And if one have taken grace, not to use it as one ought; not to keep it: to turn not to the inspiration of GOD: to conform not one's will to GOD'S will: to give not attention to one's prayers, but mutter on and never reck save that they be said; to do negligently what one was bound by vow to do, or by command, or else enjoined in penance: to draw out at length what should be done soon: having no joy at one's neighbour's profit as at one's own; not sorrowing at his ill-faring: standing not against temptations: forgiving not those who have done one harm: keeping not faith with one's neighbour as one would that he did to one's self: and yielding not a good deed for another if one can. Amending not those sins before one's eyes: not appeasing strifes: not teaching them that are unlearned: not comforting them that are in sorrow, or in sickness, or in poverty, or in penance, or in prison. These sins, and many others make men foul. The things that cleanse us of that filth, are three, against these three manners of sins. The first is: sorrow of heart against the sin of thought: and that it behoves (thee to) be so perfect that thou beest in full will never to sin more. And that thou mayest have sorrow for all thy sins. And that all joy and solace, except of GOD and in GOD, be put out of thine heart. The second is: shrift of mouth; against the sin of mouth. And that shall be hasty, without delaying. Naked, without excusing. Whole, without parting. Also (not) for to tell one sin to one priest and another to another. Say all that thou wottest to one, or else thy shrift is not worth. The Third is, Satisfaction; that has three parts, Fasting, Prayer, and Alms-Deed. Not only to give poor men meat and drink: but to forgive them that do thee wrong and pray for them: and inform them who are at the point to perish what they shall do. For the third thing, thou shalt wit that cleanness behoves to be kept in heart, in mouth and in work. Cleanness of heart, three things keep: one is, watchful thought and stable about GOD. Another is, care to keep thy five wits, so that all the wicked stirrings of them be closed out of the flesh. The third, honest and profitable occupation. Also, cleanness of mouth, three things keep: one is that thou should'st bethink thee before thou speakest. Another is that thou beest not of great but of little speech; and specially ever till thine heart be established in the love of JESUS Christ: so that men think thou ever lookest on Him, whether thou speakest or not. But such a grace may'st thou not have on the first day: but with long travel and great care to love Him from habit, so that the eye of thine heart be aye upward, shalt thou come thereto. The third, that thou for nothing, not even for meekness, shalt lie to any man. For every lie is sin and ill: and not GOD'S will. Thou needest not tell all the truth always, unless thou willest. But hate all lies. If thou sayest a thing of thyself that seems to thy praise, but thou sayst it to the praise of GOD and help of another, thou dost not unwisely for thou speakest truth. But if thou will have aught private, tell it to none but such a one that thou beest secure that it should not be shewed (disclosed) but only to the praise of GOD, of whom is all goodness, and who makes some better than others, and gives them special grace, not only for themselves, but also for them that will do well after their example. Cleanness of work, three things keep. One is: a careful thought of death: for the wise man says; "Bethink thee of thy last ending, and thou shalt not sin." The second: flee from ill fellowship, that gives more example to love the world than GOD, earth than heaven, filth of body than cleanness of soul. The third is: temperance and discretion in meat and drink: that it be neither to excess, nor beneath suitable sustenance for thy body. For both come to one end: excess and over-great fasting: for neither is GOD'S will—and that many will not suppose, for anything one may say. If you take sustenance of such good as GOD sends for the time and the day, whatever it be, I take out no manner of meat that Christian men use; with measure and discretion, thou dost well; for so did Christ and His Apostles. If you leave many meats that men have, not despising the meat that GOD has made for man's help, but because thou thinkest thou hast no need thereof, thou dost well: if thou seest that thou art stalwart to serve GOD, and that it breaks not thy stomach. For if thou hast broken it with over-great abstinence, appetite for meat is reft from thee: and often shalt thou be in tremblings, as if thou wert ready to give up the ghost. And wit thou well, thou didst sin that deed. And thou may'st not wit soon whether thine abstinence be against thee, or with thee. For the time thou art going, I counsel thee that thou should'st eat better and more, as it comes, that thou beest not beguiled. And afterward, when thou hast proved many things, and overcome many temptations, and knowest better thyself and GOD than thou didst, then if thou seest that it be to be done, thou mayst take to greater abstinence. And meanwhile thou mayst do privy penance which all men need not know. Righteousness is not all in fasting or in eating. But thou art righteous, if contempt and praise, poverty and riches, hunger and need or delights and dainties be all alike to thee. If thou takest these with love of GOD, I hold thee blessed and high before JESUS. Men who come to thee, they love thee because they see thy great abstinence, and because they see thee enclosed: but I may not love thee so lightly for anything I see thee do without, but if thy will be conformed entirely to GOD'S will. And set not by their praise and blame, and never give thou heed if they speak less good of thee than they did; but that thou shouldest be more burning in GOD'S love than thou wert. For one thing I warn thee: I hope that GOD has no perfect servant in earth without enemies of some men—For only wretchedness has no enemy. For to draw us that we conform our will to GOD'S will: are three things. One is, example of holy men and women, who were intent, night and day, to serve GOD, and dread Him and love Him. If we follow them on earth, we must be with them in heaven. Another is the goodness of our Lord, which despises none, but gladly receives all that come to His mercy: and He is homelier to them than brother or sister, or any friend that they most love, or most trust in. The third is the wonderful joy of the kingdom of heaven, which is more than tongue may tell, or heart may think, or eye may see, or ear may hear. It is so great that, as in hell nothing might live for great pain but that the might of GOD suffers them not to die; so the joy in the sight of JESUS in His GOD-head is so great that they must die of joy, if it were not for His goodness, who wills that His lovers should be living aye in bliss: also His righteousness wills that all who loved Him not, be aye living in fire, which is horrible to any man that thinks: look then what it is to feel. But they who will not think of it and dread it now, they shall suffer it evermore. Now hast thou heard how thou mayst dispose thy life, and rule it to GOD'S will. But I wot well that thou desirest to hear some special point of the love of JESUS Christ, and of contemplative life, which thou hast taken to thee in all men's sight. (According) As I have grace and knowledge, I will teach thee.


Amore langueo. These two words are written in the Book of Love, that is called the Song of Love, or the Song of Songs. For he that loves greatly, lists often to sing of his love, for joy that he or she has when they think on that they love, specially if their love be true and loving. And this is the English of these two words: "I languish for love." Separate men on earth have separate gifts and graces of GOD, but the special gift of those who lead the solitary life, is for to love JESUS Christ. Thou sayest to me, 'All men love Him who keep His commandments.' That is Truth. But all men who keep His bidding keep not also His Counsel. And all that do His Counsel are not all fulfilled by the sweetness of His love, nor feel the fire of burning love of heart. Therefore, the diversity of love makes the diversity of holiness and of need. In heaven, the angels who are most burning in love, are nearest to GOD. Also, men and women that have most of GOD'S love, whether they do penance or none; they shall be in the highest degree in heaven: they who love Him less, in the lower order. If thou lovest Him much, great joy and sweetness and burning thou feelest in His love, that is thy comfort and strength night and day. If thy love be not burning in Him: little is thy delight. For Him may no man feel in joy and sweetness, unless they be clean and filled with His love; and thereto shalt thou come with great travail in prayer and thanking, having such meditations as are all on the love and the praising of GOD. And when thou art at thy meal, ever love GOD in thy thought, at each moment, and say thus in thine heart: Loved be Thou, King: and thanked be Thou, King, and blessed be Thou, King, JESU all my joying, of all Thy good gifts: Who for me spilt Thy blood, and died on the rood. Do Thou give me grace to sing the song of Thy praise. And think it not only whiles thou eatest, but both before and after, and ever when thou prayest or speakest. Or if thou hast other thoughts, that thou hast more sweetness in and devotion than in those that I teach thee, thou may'st think them. For I hope that GOD will put such thoughts in thine heart, as He is pleased with, and as thou art ordained for. When thou prayest, look not how much thou sayest, but how well: that the love of thine heart be aye upward, and thy thought on what thou sayst as much as thou canst. If thou beest in prayers and meditations all the day, I wot well that thou must wax greatly in the love of JESUS Christ, and feel much of delight, and within short time.


Three degrees of love I shall tell thee, for I would that thou mightest win to the highest. The first degree is called Insuperable. The second Inseparable. The third is, Singular. Thy love is Insuperable, when nothing that is contrary to GOD'S love overcomes it: but it is stalwart against all temptations; and stable, whether thou beest in ease or in anguish, or in health or in sickness: so that men think that thou wouldest not, even to have all the world without end, make GOD angry at any time: and thou wert liefer, if so it should be, to suffer all the pain and woe that might come to any creature, before thou wouldst do the thing that should displease Him. In this manner shall thy love be Insuperable that nothing can bring it down, but it may aye spring on high. Blessed is he or she who is in this degree: but yet are they blesseder who might hold to this degree and turn to the other, that is to Inseparable. Inseparable is thy love, when all thine heart, and thy thought, and thy might is so wholly, so entirely and so perfectly fastened, set and established in JESUS Christ, that thy thought comes never from Him, never departs from Him, sleeping excepted: and as soon as thou awakest, thine heart is on Him, saying Ave Maria, or Gloria Tibi, Domine, or Pater Noster, or Miserere mei, DEUS, if thou hast been tempted in thy sleep; or thinking on His love and His praise as thou didst waking. When thou canst at no time forget Him, waking or sleeping, whatso thou dost or sayst, then is thy love Inseparable. Full great grace have they that be in this degree of love. And methinks that thou, who hast nothing else to do but for to love GOD, mayst come thereunto if any may get it.

The third degree is highest and most wondrous to win. That is called Singular, for it has no peer. Singular love is when all comfort and solace is closed out of thine heart, but of JESUS Christ alone. Other joy it delights not in. For the sweetness of Him in this degree is so comforting, and lasting in His love, so burning and gladdening, that he or she who is in this degree can as well feel the fire of love burning in their soul, as thou canst feel thy finger burn if thou puttest it in the fire. But that fire, if it be hot, is so delectable and so wonderful, that I cannot tell it. Then, thy soul is loving JESUS, thinking of JESUS, desiring JESUS; in covetousness of Him breathing; to Him singing: of Him burning; in Him resting. Then the song of praise and of love has come. Then, thy thought turns into song and into melody. Then it behoves thee to sing the psalms which before thou said'st. Then must thou be long over a few psalms. Then, thou wilt think death sweeter than honey, for then thou art full of sighs to see Him whom thou lovest. [Then mayst thou boldly say "I languish for love."] Then mayst thou say "I sleep, and my heart wakes."

In the first degree, men may say "I languish for love," or "I long in love." And in the second degree also: for languishing is when men fail for sickness, and they who are in these two degrees fail from all the covetousness of this world, and from lust and liking of sinful life, and set their will and their heart to the love of GOD—therefore they may say "I languish for love," and much more that are in the second degree than in the first. But the soul that is in the third degree is all burning fire, and like the nightingale that loves song and melody, and fails for great love: so that the soul is only comforted in praising and loving GOD; and till Death come, is singing ghostly to JESUS, and in JESUS, and JESUS; not crying bodily with the mouth—of that manner of singing I speak not, for both good and evil have that song. And this manner of song have none unless they be in this third degree of love: to the which degree it is impossible to come, but in a great multitude of love. Therefore, if thou wilt wot what kind of joy that song has, I tell thee, that no man wots, save he or she who feels it, who has it, and who loves GOD singing therewith. One thing tell I thee, it is of heaven, and GOD gives it to whom He will, but not without great grace coming before. Who has it, he thinks all the song and all the minstrelsy of earth naught but sorrow and woe (compared) thereto. In sovereign rest shall they be who get it. Wanderers and brawlers, and keepers of comers and goers early and late night and day, or any who are seized with any sin witfully and willingly, or who have delight in any earthly thing, they are also farther therefrom than heaven is from earth. In the first degree, are many: in the second degree are full few; but in the third degree are scarcely any: for aye the greater is the perfection the fewer followers it has. In the first degree, men are likened to the stars, in the second to the moon, in the third to the sun. Therefore says S. Paul: "Others of the sun, others of the moon, others of the stars," so it is of the lovers of GOD. In this third degree, if thou mayst win thereto, thou shalt know of more joy than I have told thee yet. And among other affections and songs, thou mayst, in thy longing, sing this in thine heart to thy Lord JESUS, when thou dost covet His coming and thy going: "When wilt Thou come to comfort me: and bring me out of care, and give me Thee, Whom I may see, having evermore? My heart when shall it burst? for love then languished I no more. For love my thought has fast, and I am fain to fare away. I stand still mourning for the loveliest of lore; ...[3] is love-longing; it draws me to my day; The brand of sweet burning for it holds me aye: From place and from playing: till I may get sight of my sweet One, Who never wends away. In wealth be our waking, without hurt or night. My love is everlasting, and longs unto that sight."


If thou wilt be well with GOD, and have grace to rule thy life, and come to the joy of love: this name JESUS, fasten it so fast in thy heart that it come never out of thy thought. And when thou speakest to Him, and through custom sayst, JESUS, it shall be in thine ear, joy; in thy mouth, honey; and in thine heart, melody: for men shall think joy to hear that name be named, sweetness to speak it, mirth and song to think it. If thou thinkest (on) JESUS continually, and holdest it firmly, it purges thy sin, and kindles thine heart; it clarifies thy soul, it removes anger and does away slowness. It wounds in love and fulfils charity. It chases the devil, and puts out dread. It opens heaven, and makes a contemplative man. Have JESUS in mind, for that puts all vices and phantoms out from the lover. And often hail Mary, both day and night. Much love and joy shalt thou feel, if thou wilt do after this teaching. Thou need'st not covet greatly many books: hold love in thine heart and work, and thou hast all that we can say or write: for fulness of the law is charity: on that hangs everything.


But now, thou mayst ask me and say, "Thou speakest so much of love; tell me—What is love, and where is love. And how I shall love GOD verily. And how that I may know that I love Him. And in what state I may most love Him." These are hard questions to teach, to a feeble man and fleshly as I am. But nevertheless therefore, I shall not delay that I shall not shew my wit, and as I think it may be. For I hope in the help of JESUS, who is the well of love and peace and sweetness. Thy first asking is: What is love? And I answer: Love is a burning yearning after GOD, with a wonderful delight and certainty. GOD is light and burning. Light clarifies our reason; burning kindles our will, that we desire naught but Him. Love is a life, joining together the loving and the loved. For meekness makes us sweet to GOD. Purity joins us to GOD. Love makes us one with GOD. Love is the beauty of all virtues. Love is the thing through which GOD loves us, and we Him, and each one of us loves others. Love is the desire of the heart, aye thinking on that it loves; and when it has that it loves, then it joys and nothing can make it sorry. (Love is yearning between two, with lastingness of thoughts.) Love is a stirring of the soul for to love GOD for Himself, and all other things for GOD; the which love, when it is ordained in GOD, it does away all inordinate love in anything that is not good. But all deadly sin is inordinate love for a thing that is naught: then love puts out all deadly sin. Love is a virtue which is the rightest affection of man's soul. Truth may be without love: but it cannot help without it. Love is a perfection of learning, virtue of prophecy, fruit of truth, help of sacraments, establishing of wit and knowledge; riches of pure men; life of dying men. So, how good love is. If we suffer to be slain; if we give all that we have, (down) to a beggar's staff; if we know as much as men may know on earth, all this is naught but ordained sorrow and torment. If thou wilt ask how good is he or she, ask how much he or she loves; and that no man can tell. For I hold it folly to judge a man's heart; that none knows save GOD. Love is a righteous turning from all earthly things, and is joined to GOD, without departing, and kindled with the fire of the Holy Ghost: far from defiling, far from corruption, bound to no vice of this life. High above all fleshly lusts, aye ready and greedy for the contemplation of GOD. In all things not overcome. The sum of all good affections. Health of good manners; goal of the commandments of GOD; death of sins; life of virtues. Virtue whilst fighting lasts, crown of over-comers. Mirth[4] to holy thoughts. Without that, no man may please GOD; with that, no man sins. For if we love GOD in all our heart, there is nothing in us through which we serve sin. Very love cleanses the soul, and delivers it from the pain of hell, and from the foul service of sin, and from the ugly fellowship of the devils; and (out) of the fiend's son, makes GOD'S son, and partner of the heritage of heaven. We shall force ourselves to clothe us in love, as iron or coal does in the fire, as the air does in the sun, as the wool does in the dye. The coal so clothes itself in fire that it is fire. The air so clothes itself in the sun that it is light. And the wool so substantially takes the dye that it is like it. In this manner shall a true lover of JESUS Christ do: his heart shall so burn in love, that it shall be turned into the fire of love, and be as it were all fire; and he shall so shine in virtues that no part of him shall be murky in vices.

The second asking is: Where is love? And the answer: love is in thine heart, and in the will of man; not in his hand, nor in his mouth: that is to say, not in his work, but in his soul, "For many speak good and do good, and love not GOD: as hypocrites, who suffer great penance, and seem holy in man's sight. But because they seek praise and honour of men, and favour, they have lost their meed: and in the sight of GOD, they are devil's sons, and ravishing wolves. But if a man give alms-deed, and take him to poverty and do penance, it is a sign that he loves GOD: but therefore loves he Him not, save when he forsakes the world only for GOD'S love, and sets all his thought on GOD, and loves all men as himself: and all the good deeds that he may do, he does them with intent to please JESUS Christ, and to come to the rest of heaven. Then he loves GOD: and that love is in his soul, and so his deeds shew without. If thou speakest good and doest good, men suppose that thou lovest good: therefore look well that thy thought be in God, or else thou deceivest thyself, and deceivest men. Nothing that I do without (outside) proves that I love GOD.

For a wicked man might do as much penance in body, as much waking and fasting as I do. How may I then ween that I love, or hold myself better, on account of that which any man may do? Certainly, my heart, whether it loves my GOD or not, wots no one but GOD, for nought that they may see me do. Wherefore, love is in will verily, not in work, but in a sign of love. For he that says he loves GOD, and will not do what is in him to shew love, tell him that he lies. Love will not be idle, it is working some good evermore. If it cease working, wit thou that it cools and goes away.

The third asking is: How shall I verily love GOD? I answer; Very love is to love Him with all thy might, stalwartly: in all thine heart, wisely: in all thy soul, devoutly and sweetly. Stalwartly can no man love Him save he be stalwart. He is stalwart, who is meek; for all ghostly strength comes of meekness;—on whom rests the Holy Ghost? in a meek soul. Meekness governs us and keeps us in all our temptations, so that they overcome us not. But the devil deceives many that are meek, through tribulations, and reproofs, and back-bitings*. But if thou beest wroth for any anguish of this world, or for any word that men say of thee, or for aught that men say to thee, thou art not meek, nor mayst thou love GOD stalwartly. For love is stalwart as death, which slays every living thing on earth, and hard as hell that spares not them that are dead. And he who loves GOD perfectly grieves Him not, whatever shame or anguish he may suffer; but he has delight and covets that he might be worthy for to suffer torment and pain for Christ's love: and he has joy that men reprove him and speak ill of him. Like a dead man, what so men do or say, he answers not. Right-so, whoso loves GOD perfectly, they are not stirred for any word that man may say. For he or she cannot love, that cannot suffer pain or anger for their friend's love. For whoso loves, they have no pain. Proud men or women love not stalwartly, for they are so weak, and they fall at every stirring of the wind that is temptation. They seek a higher place than Christ; for they will have their will done, whether it be with right or with wrong: and Christ wills that nothing but well be done, and without harm to other men. But who is verily meek, they will not have their will in this world, but that they may have it in the other fully. In nothing may men sooner overcome the devil than in Meekness, which he much hates. For he may wake, and fast and suffer pain more than any other creature may: but meekness and love may he not have. Also, it behoves thee to love GOD wisely, and that thou canst not do save thou beest wise. Thou art wise, when thou art poor without desire of this world, and despisest thyself for love of Christ: and expendest all thy wit and all thy might in His service. For some who seem wise are most fools, for all their wisdom they spill in covetousness and care about the world. If thou sawest a man have precious stones wherewith he might buy a kingdom, if he gave them for an apple, as a child will do, rightly mightest thou say that he was not wise but a great fool. Just so, if we will, we have precious stones: Poverty and penance and ghostly travail, with the which we may buy the kingdom of heaven. For, if thou lovest poverty and despisest riches and delights of this world, and holdest thyself vile and poor, and thinkest thou hast naught of thyself save sin: for this poverty, thou shalt have riches without end. And if thou hast sorrow for thy sins, and because thou art so long in exile out of thy country, and forsakest the solace of this life: thou shalt have for this sorrow the joy of heaven. And if thou beest in travail, and punishest thy body reasonably and wisely, by wakings, fastings, and in prayers and meditations, and sufferest heat and cold, hunger and thirst, privation and anguish for the love of JESUS Christ; for this travail thou shalt come to rest that lasts aye, and sit on a settle of joy with angels. But some there are who love not wisely, like children who love an apple, more than a castle. So do many; they give the joy of heaven for a little delight of their flesh, that is not worth a plum. Now canst thou see, that whoso will love wisely, it behoves him to love lasting things, lastingly; and passing things, passingly; so that his heart be settled and fastened on nothing but GOD. And if thou wilt love JESUS verily, thou shalt not only love Him stalwartly and wisely, but also devoutly and sweetly. Sweet love is when thy body is chaste and thy thought clean. Devout love is; when thou offerest thy prayers and thy thoughts to GOD with ghostly joy, and burning heart in the heat of the Holy Ghost; so that men think that thy soul is as it were drunken for delight and solace of the sweetness of JESUS; and thy heart conceivest so much of GOD'S help that men think thou mayst never be departed from Him: and then thou comest into such rest and peace in soul, and quiet, without thoughts of vanity, (or) of vices, as if thou wert in silence and sleep, and set in Noe's ship, so that nothing may hinder thee from devotion and sweet love. For thou hast gotten His love: all thy life, until death come, in joy and comfort: and thou art verily Christ's lover: and he rests in peace whose place is made in peace.

The fourth asking was: how thou mightest know that thou wast in love and charity. I answer: that no man wots on earth that they are in charity; save it be through any privilege or special grace that GOD has given to any man or woman: that all others may not take example by. Holy men and women trow that they have truth and hope and charity: and in that do as well as they may, and hope certainly that they shall be safe; they wot it not so quickly; for if they wish, their merit were the less. And Solomon says it is so with righteous men and wise men, and that their works are in GOD'S hand. And nevertheless, a man wots not whether he be worthy hatred or love; but all is reserved uncertain for another world. Nevertheless, if any had grace that he might win to the third degree of love, which is called Singular, he should know that he was in love. But in such manner were the knowing, that he might never bear himself the higher, nor be in less care to love GOD; but so much the more that he is secure of love, will he be busy to love Him and dread Him, Who has made him so, and done that goodness to Him; and he that is so high, he will not hold himself worthier than the sinfullest man that goes on earth. Also seven experiments are there, that a man be in charity. The first is; when all covetousness of earthly things is quenched in him. For whereso covetousness is, is no love of Christ. Then, if he have no covetousness, sign is that he has love. The second is, burning yearning for heaven. For when men have felt aught of that savour, the more they love, the more they covet: and he that has not felt, he desires not. Therefore, when anyone is given so much, till he love thereof (so) that he can find no joy in his life: token has he that he is in charity. The third is; if his tongue be changed, that was wont to speak of earth; now speaks of GOD, and of the life that lasts aye. The fourth is: exercise of ghostly profit. As if any man or woman give themselves entirely to GOD'S services, and meddle with no earthly business. The fifth is: when the thing that is hard of itself seems light for to do; the which love makes. For as Austin says: "Love it is which brings the far thing near-to-hand, and the impossible to the openly possible." The sixth is: hardness of thought to suffer all anguish and hurt that comes—without this, all the other suffices not. For whatso befalls him shall not make a righteous man sorry. For he who is righteous, hates naught but sin; he loves naught but GOD, before GOD: he dreads naught but to anger GOD. The seventh is: delectability in soul, when he is in tribulation, and makes praise to GOD in the anger that he suffers. And this shews well that he loves GOD, when no sorrow can bring him down. For many love GOD while they are at ease; and in adversity they grumble, and fall into so great sorriness, that scarcely may any man comfort them: and so slander they GOD, striving and fighting against His judgments. And that is caitiff praise that any wealth of the world makes: but that praise is of great price that no violence of sorrow can do away.

The fifth asking was: In what state men may most love GOD? I answer, in such state as it be that men are in most rest of body and soul, and least occupied with any needs or business of this world. For the thought of the love of JESUS Christ, and of the joy that lasts aye, seeks outward rest, so that it be not hindered by comers and goers, and occupation of worldly things; and it seeks within great silence from the annoyances of desires, and of vanities, and of earthly thoughts. And especially, all who love contemplative life they seek rest in body and soul. For a great Doctor says: "They are GOD'S throne who dwell still in one place, and are not running about, but in sweetness of Christ's love are fixed." And I have loved for to sit: for no penance, nor fantasy, nor that I wished men to talk of me, nor for no such thing: but only because I knew that I loved GOD more, and longer lasted within the comfort of love: than going, or standing, or kneeling. For sitting am I in most rest, and my heart most upward. But therefore, peradventure, it is not best that another should sit, as I did and will do to my death, save he were disposed in his soul, as I was.


Seven gifts of the Holy Ghost are in men and women who are ordained to the joy of heaven and lead their life in this world righteously. These they are: Wisdom: Understanding: Counsel: Strength: Knowledge: Pity and the Fear of GOD. Begin we at Counsel, for thereof is most need at the beginning of our works, which we dislike not afterwards. With these seven gifts, the Holy Ghost touches separate men separately. Counsel is doing away with the world's riches, delights, and all things with which men may be ensnared in thought or deed: and therewith (i.e. Counsel) be drawn inwardly to contemplation of GOD. Understanding is, to know what is for to do, and what to leave (undone): and that which shall be given, to give it to them that have need, not to others that have no need. Wisdom is forgetting of earthly things, and thinking of heaven, with discretion in all men's deeds. In this gift, shines contemplation, that is, as S. Austen says "A ghostly death of fleshly affection through the joy of a raised thought." Strength is; enduring to fulfil good purpose, that it be not left, neither for weal nor for woe. Pity is: that a man be mild: and gainsay no holy Writ when it smites his sins, whether he understand it or not; but with all his might that he purge the vileness of sin, in himself and in others. Knowledge is that (which) makes a man in good hope, not making him quake for his righteousness, but sorrowing for his sin; and that a man gather earthly good only to the honour of GOD, and to other men's advantage more than to his own. The Fear of God is: that we turn not again to our sin for any egging on: and then is fear perfect in us and holy, when we dread to anger GOD in the least sin that we can know, and flee it as poison.


Two lives there are that Christian men live. One is called Active life, for it is more in bodily work. Another, contemplative life, for it is in more ghostly sweetness. Active life is greatly outward, and in more travail and in more peril, because of the temptations that are in the world. Contemplative life is largely inward, therefore it is more enduring and more certain, restfuller, more delectable, lovelier and more rewarding. For, it has joy in GOD'S love, and savour in the life that lasts aye, in this present time, if it be rightly led. And that feeling of joy in the love of JESUS passes all other merits in earth. For it is so hard to come to, because of the frailty of our flesh, and the many temptations that we are beset with, which hinder us night and day: all other things that come are light in regard thereof; for that may no man deserve, but only it is given of GOD'S goodness to them who verily give themselves to contemplation and to quiet for Christ's love. To men and women who betake themselves to active life, two things befall. One: to appoint their household in fear and in the love of GOD, and to find them in necessaries, and themselves keep GOD'S commandments entirely. Doing to their neighbours as they will that they do to them. Another is that they do, so far as they can, the seven works of mercy. The which are: to feed the hungry: to give the thirsty a drink; to clothe the naked: to harbour them that have no housing: to visit the sick, to comfort them that are in prison; to bury dead men.

All that can and who have property, they may not be quit with one or two of these; but it behoves them to do them all, if they will on Dooms-Day have the benison that JESUS shall give to all who do them. Or else they may dread the malison that all men have who will not do them, when they had goods to do them with.

Contemplative life has two parts: a lower and a higher. The lower part is meditation of holy writing, that is GOD'S word, and in other good thoughts and sweet that men have of the grace of GOD, about the love of JESUS Christ, and also in praising GOD in psalms and hymns and in prayers. The higher part of contemplation is beholding and yearning after the things of heaven, and joy in the Holy Ghost: that men have oft, although it be so that they be not praying with the mouth, but only thinking of GOD, and of the beauty of angels, and of holy souls. Then may I say that contemplation is a wonderful joy of GOD'S love; the which joy is praising GOD, that cannot be told; and that wonderful praising is in the soul: and for abundance of joy and sweetness, it ascends into the mouth; so that the heart and the tongue agree in one, and body and soul joy, living in GOD. A man or woman that is appointed to contemplative life, first GOD inspires them to forsake this world, and all the vanity and covetousness and vile lust thereof. Afterwards He leads them by their lone and speaks to their heart, and as the prophet says "He gives them to suck of the sweetness of the beginning of love": and then He sets them in the will to give themselves wholly to prayers and meditations and tears. Afterwards, when they have suffered many temptations, and when the foul annoyances of thoughts that are idle, and of vanities which will encumber those who cannot destroy them, are passing away, He makes them gather up their heart to them and fasten it only in Him, and opens to the eye of their souls the gates of heaven: and then the fire of love verily lies in their heart, and burns therein, and makes it clean from all earthly filth, and afterwards they are contemplative men, and ravished in love. For contemplation is a sight; and they see into Heaven with their ghostly eye. But thou shalt wit that no man has perfect sight of heaven, whilst they are living bodily here. But as soon as they die, they are brought before GOD, and see Him face to face, and eye to eye, and dwell with Him without end. For Him they sought, and Him they coveted, and Him they loved, with all their might.

Lo, Margaret, I have told thee shortly the Form of Living, and how thou mayst come to perfection, and to love Him whom thou hast taken thee to. If it do thee good and profit to thee, thank GOD, and pray for me. The grace of JESUS Christ be with thee, and keep thee. Amen.

Here endeth "The Form of Perfect Living."


[3] The text is imperfect here.

[4] Two MSS. substitute "arms" for "mirth."

Our Daily Work.

(A Mirror of Discipline.)

Our Daily Work.

(A Mirror of Discipline.)

Three things are needful to every man; to increase his reward, through GOD'S grace helping, Who shall lead him. The first; that man be in honest work, without losing of his time. The second; that he do his work with a freedom of spirit, in place and in time, as work falls to each. The third; that his outward bearing, wheresoever he come, be so honest and fair, that praise is (given) to GOD, a stirring up of good to all who see him, as the Apostle bids: Omnia in vobis honesti et secundum ordinem fiant, that is "That ye do: be it done honestly and in order."

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