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The Fire Of Love by Richard Rolle


O Jesu, when with rejoicing, I burn in Thee, and busily the heat of love comes in so that I should halse Thee fully, O most lovely; but I am borne back, Thou sweetest one, from that I love and desire. Moreover griefs happen, and the waste wilderness forbars the way, and suffers not the habitations of the lovers to be builded in one. But would to God Thou hadst shown me a fellow in the way, that with his stirrings my heaviness might have been gladdened and the bond of sighing unloosed; if it were not forthwith cut in sunder by Thy sweet scythe, so sorely it would strain that it might gar the lover go forth from the close of the flesh for the greatness of love and be cast down before Thy Majesty.

In the meantime, certain, joying in hymns of praise, sweetly should I have rested with my fellow that Thou hadst given me, and in good speech, withouten strife, we should have been glad. Truly feasting together in the mirth of love we would sing lovely songs, until we be led from this outward and cumbrous prison and brought into the inward dwelling place, at the same time, receiving by lot a seat among the heavenly citizens that loved Christ in one manner and one measure.

Alas what shall I do? How long shall I suffer delay? To whom shall I flee that I may happily enjoy that I desire? Needy am I and hungry, noyed and diseased, wounded and discoloured for the absence of my love; for love hurts me, and hope that is put back chastises my soul. Therefore the cry of the heart goes up, and amongst the heavenly citizens a songly thought runs desiring to be lifted up to the ear of the most High. And when it comes there it proffers its errand and says:

O my love! O my honey! O my harp! O my psaltry and daily song! When shalt Thou help my heaviness? O my heart's rose, when shalt Thou come to me and take with Thee my spirit? Truly Thou seest that I am wounded to the quick with Thy fair beauty, and the longing relaxes not but grows more and more, and the penalties here present cast me down, and prick me to go to Thee, of whom only I trow I shall see solace and remedy. But who meanwhile shall sing me the end of my grief and the end of mine unrest? And who shall show to me the greatness of my joy and the fulfilling of my song, that from this I might take comfort and sing with gladness, for I should know the end of mine unhappiness and that joy were near? Herefore an excellent song I shall sing and my cry and voice shall soften the hardness of my Beloved also. If He should chastise He should slake, but punishing gradually, He shall not ay laugh at the pains of the innocent.

And herefore I can be called happy, and have withouten end the merriest draught of love, withouten all uncleanness; and, all griefs being cleansed away, may stand in perfectness of joy and holiness, singing worship with a heavenly symphony; when, truly, amid these needy diseases, the burning of sweet love has mirthed my mind within my secret soul as it were with music, and the sweet honeyed memory of Jesu; so that I, greatly gladdened in the song the which I received from heaven, should not feel the venomous sweetness of unworthy love -- the which those that flourish in beauty of the flesh think full sweet -- nor should this sturdy earthliness hold me.

O fairest and most lovely in Thy beauty, have mind that for Thy sake I dread not worldly power; and have mind also that I would cleave to Thee. All love that unwisely cherishes I have cast out, and I have fled all things that let to love Thee, God; and fleeting fairness that makes men bond and send women to malice, nor has it liked me to enjoy plays of youth, that by uncleanness make worthy souls subject to bondage of folly.

Henceforth I ceased not to give Thee my heart, touched by desire; and Thou hast withholden it so that it should not flow into divers lewdness of concupiscence and lust, and Thou hast put in me the mind of Thy Name, and hast opened to mine eyes the window of contemplation. To Thee at last devoted I have run in ghostly song; but first my heart waxed warm with the fire of love, and lovely ditties rose up within me.

If thou puttest not these things from Thy sight, the mickleness of Thy pity should move Thee; by the which Thou sufferest not Thy lovers to be taken too mickle into coldness: and I trow Thou wouldest lessen my wretchedness, and Thou wouldest not turn Thy face from my longing.

Sorrow certain and wretchedness stand in the body; longing soothly abides in the soul, until the time Thou givest that I have desired with so great heat; through love of which my flesh is made lean and foul among the beauteous of this life. And from the inflowing of it my soul has languished to see Thee whom she has burningly desired: and that in those seats she might be the secret heaven, and rest with the fellowship that she desired; and after be taken up where, among angel signers, she may worship Thee perfectly with love, withouten end.

Behold, mine inward parts have seethed up and the flame of charity has wasted the gathering of my heart that I have hated, and has put by the slippery gladness of worldly friendship; and also thoughts that were foul and to be held abominable it has drawn out. And so without feigning I have risen to mannerly love, that before had slept in divers outrays of mine errors and umbelapped with darkness; there with liking I felt the lust of devotion sweetest where I sorrow more to have trespassed. My friends I pray you hear that no man beguile you!

These, and other such words in the sight of our Maker, burst up from the fire of love; and no man that is strange to this unmeasured love should dare to use such words the which is yet disturbed with temptation to void and unprofitable thoughts, and that has not his mind continually with Christ without gainturning, or is stirred affectously in any manner about any creature: so that all the movements of his heart go not to God because he feels himself bound to earthly affection.

Full high is he in charity whose heart has sung these ditties of love, and, hid in ghostly feasting, beholds not outward fondness. Forsooth marvellously cheered with eternal desires, he raises himself to heaven by contemplation: from whence he burns with sweetest love, and is moistened by a draught from the heavenly passage; and is umbeset and truly transformed with the heat of the happiness to come, so that he shall eschew all temptation and is set in the height of contemplative life. And henceforward so continuing in ghostly song in Christ's praise he is glorified.

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