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Fire of Love
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CHAPTER XXIX

THE TEACHING OF THE BOISTEROUS AND UNTAUGHT, DESIRING TO LOVE: AND OF THE ESCHEWING OF WOMEN

A true soul, the spouse of Jesus Christ, casts out pride, for deeply she loves meekness; she abhors vainglory, for desiring only everlasting mirth, she follows Christ; she hates fleshly liking and softness, for feeling before the sweetness of the everlasting honey, she desires alway to feel love for the loveliest. Evil wrath she has not, because she is ready to suffer all things for Christ’s love. She knows not envy of others, for shining with true love she joys in ilk man’s profit and health.

Truly no man is envious but if he in truth be little and weens he be mickle, wherefore he raises slanders against others lest they be likened to him; or if any other among the people be called greater, fairer, or stronger, anon he is heavy, being touched with the venom of envy. But the soul the which is but a little kindled with heavenly contemplation can not seek that vainglory of slipping praise. Whereby it is plainly shown that men therefore have envy because they have not the love of God that is in ilk chosen soul. For where any are that love God, they truly desire the profit of their fellows as of themselves.

If thou wilt therefore surpass in God’s love thou hatest all earthly praising. The despisings of men and their scorns thou halsest for Christ, and strongly thou spreadest thy mind to get eternal joy. Rather choose with the rejected to feel the torment of fire in pain than common in sin with them. Certain he lives sicker that loves Christ burningly, and in the joy of His love sings lustily. It is more pleasing to him to fall into everlasting fire than once to sin deadly. Forsooth there are such saints, because they live in cleanness. They despise all earthly things, and from heat and ghostly gladness joying, they sing what before they said. They burn in the love of Christ; they study after heavenly sights; they are ever busy, as much as in them is, with good works; they overflow with the likings of everlasting life; and yet to themselves them seem most foul, and among others they think themselves the last and lowest.

Therefore thou that art boisterous and untaught be busy to stand strongly against thy ghostly enemies, and to suffer no ill thought to rest in thy heart; and set thy wisdom against the waitings of the fiends. When an unclean imagination or thought, contrary to the purpose of thy mind, withstands thee, fail not but fight manly. Cry to Christ without ceasing, until thou be clad with God’s armour. And if thou desire to follow the despisers of the world think not what thou forsakest but what thou despisest; with what desire thou offerest thy will to God; with how great desire of love thou presentest thy prayers; with how great heat for the sight of God thou longest to be joined to Him. If thou perfectly hate all sin; if thou desire nothing that passes; if thy soul refuses to be cheered with earthly solace; if thou savour to behold heavenly things and desire most God’s Son; if thou speak mannerly and wisely, because he speaks not, except he be made, whose spirit is melted with the honey of God’s love and the sweetness of the song of Jesu; behold by these, and other such, sometimes used, thou shalt come to perfection.

No marvel God approves such a despiser of the world. Truly the soul that is both sweet with the shining of conscience, and fair with the charity of endless love, may be called Christ’s garden; for she is cleansed from sins, flourishes with virtues and joys with the sweetness of high song, like as with songs of birds.

Therefore set we all our mind to please and obey God, to serve and love Him, and in ilk good deed we do be we busy to come to God. What value is it to covet earthly things or to desire fleshly love? We can have nothing thereby that lasts but the Judge’s wrath, that is to say everlasting pain. Soothly fleshly love stirs temptation and blinds the soul that she may not have perfect cleanness; it hides sins done, and it casts her down unwisely to new wickedness; it enflames to all cursed lusts; it disturbs all rest of the soul, and it lets, so that Christ may not be burningly loved; and wastes all virtue gotten before.

Therefore he that covets to love Christ, let not the eye of his mind look to woman’s love. Women if they love men are fond, because they know not to keep measure in loving; and truly when they are loved they prick full bitterly. They have one eye for waitings, and another for true sorrow; whose love distracts the wits, perverts and overturns reason, changes wisdom of mind to folly, withdraws the heart from God and makes the soul bond to fiends. And forsooth he that beholds a woman with fleshly love—although it be not with the will to fulfill lust—keeps not himself undefiled from unlawful movings or unclean thoughts, but ofttimes defiles himself with stinking filth; and, peradventure, he feels a liking for to do worse.

Truly the beauty of women beguiles many men, through desire whereof the hearts of the righteous also are some time overturned, so that they that began in spirit end in the flesh. Therefore beware, and in the good beginning of thy conversation keep no speech with women’s fairness lest receiving thereof the venomous sickness of lust for to proffer and fulfill foulness of mind, and being deceived knowingly and cowardly, thou be drawn away by the discomfits of thine enemies. Therefore flee women wisely and alway keep thy thoughts far from them, because, though a woman be good, yet the fiend by pricking and moving, and also by their cherishing beauty, thy will can be overmickle delighted in them, because of frailty of flesh.

But if thou wouldst call again Christ’s love without ceasing, and have Him with dread in thy sight in all places, I trow thou shouldest never be beguiled by the false cherishing of a woman; but truly the more that thou seest thou art assayed with false flatterings—if thou despise them as japes or trifles as they are—no marvel that thou shouldest have the more joy of God’s love.

Christ truly does marvellously in His lovers, the which, with a special and a perfect love He takes to Himself. Truly they desire not softness of the flesh or the beauty thereof; all worldly things they forget; they love not temporal prosperity nor dread the world’s frowardness. They love full well to be by themselves that, without letting, they may fall into the gladness that they feel in God’s love; full sweet they think it to suffer for Christ, and nothing hard. For he that wills worthily to honour the victory of martyrs, let him fulfill the devotion of virtue by the following of virtue. Let him hold the cause of the martyrs if that he suffer not the pain; let him keep patience, in which he shall have full victory.

A soul truly forsaking the folly of ill love enters the way of strait life, in the which is felt the earnest of the sweetness of heavenly life: which, when she feels so comfortable that she overcomes all passing liking, she prays God that He would vouchsafe such comfort to give and refresh her ghostly, and that He would give the grace of continuance lest she fail, being made weary by divers errors.

If a young man begin to do well let him ever think to continue; let him not sleep nor cease from his good purpose, but ay profit in mind, rising from less to more. Forsooth the shadow of error being forsaken, and the venomous sweetness of a wretched life despised, taking the strait life, he halses now the sweetness of full high devotion. And thus, as it were by degrees, he ascends to the height and contemplation of God by the gifts of the Holy Ghost; in the which heat of eternal love being rested and gladdened, he overflows with heavenly delights, as far as is lawful to mortal man.

Certainly a good soul umbeset with many diseases, and noyed with the heat of temptation, can not feel the sweetness of God’s love as it is in itself; nevertheless she is expert in the joy of love and in stable course draws to her Lover; and though the soul may want so wonderful sweetness, yet with so great desire she loves Christ that for His love only she shall perseveringly stand.

But how mickle is His most kind help to be praised in which every true lover is expert; that it comforts all the sorry; makes sweet the forsaken; sets in peace the disturbed, and lays waste all distracting noise. The soul departed from the sins of the world, and withdrawn from fleshly desire, is purged of sin; and thereby she understands a sweetness of future mirth coming near to her, in which hope she is confirmed, and is sicker to have the kingdom. And in this life she gives to Christ a drink full likingly made of hot love, with greetings of ghostly gifts and with flowers of virtues, that Christ receives, pleased, who for love drank of the well of penance in this life.

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