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The Fire Of Love by Richard Rolle


It is interesting to remember that B. Richard H. of Hampole was among the names included in the prospectus which Newman drew up for The Lives of the English Saints. He tells us in a note to the Apologia , that |He has included in the series a few eminent or holy persons, who, though not in the Sacred Catalogue, are recommended to our religious memory by their fame, learning, or the benefits they have conferred on posterity.| Unfortunately Rolle shared the fate of the hundred and eighty-three whose lives were never written.

Various short biographies of Richard Rolle have appeared recently appended to editions of his works, the most complete of which are those of Dr. Horstman and the Rev. H. R. Bramley. These are drawn from the Legenda or Lections, given in the special Office, which the nuns of Hampole prepared in the hope of his canonization. This did not take place because of the unsettled state of the church, due to the rise of Lollardry, although, from the note prefixed to it, the Office seems to have been used privately. The Miracula were included in it, and were arranged to be read as Lections during the octave of the Feast.

Since the Legenda are the source of our knowledge of Rolle's life, and are largely drawn from his own writings, and more especially from the Incendium Amoris, it has seemed well to give them in full. I have translated them from the collation of the three MSS. published by the Surtees Society. They form the nine lections, to be read at Matins on the Feast Day of the saint.

The nuns, to whom Richard ministered and with whom he died, belonged to a well-known Cistercian House at Hampole. Nothing now remains of the convent, but the Rev. R. H. Benson gives the following interesting description of the place. |Hampole is still a tiny hamlet, about seven miles distant from Doncaster. There has never been a parish church there, and in Richard's time the spiritual needs of the people would no doubt be met by the convent chapel. Of the nunnery there are now no certain traces, except where a few mounds in the meadows by the stream below the hamlet mark its foundations, and beyond a few of its stones built into the school house. The few grey stone houses nestle together on the steep slope in a shallow nook in the hill, round an open space where the old village spring still runs. There is no trace of Richard's cell; but, in spit of the railway line in the valley, the place has a curious detached air, lying, as it does, a complete and self-contained whole, below the Doncaster road, fringed and shadowed by trees, and bordered with low-lying meadows rich, in early summer, with daisies and buttercups, and dotted with numerous may trees; the farthest horizon from the hamlet is not more than a mile or two away.|

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