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Fire of Love
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CHAPTER IV

OF THE EXCELLENCE OF GHOSTLY SONG: AND THAT IT NEITHER CAN BE SAID NOR WRITTEN, NOR RECEIVES ANY FELLOWSHIP: AND OF THE CHARITY OF SPIRITUAL SINGERS: AND THE PRIDE OF THEM THAT HAVE GOTTEN KNOWLEDGE

Truly the lover of Almighty God is not raised in mind to see into high things withouten skill, and to sing the song of love that springs up in the soul, the which is ardently and openly burnt with the fire of love, and spread out in sweet devotion, abiding in songs that yield honey from our fairest Mediator. Therefore the singer is led into all mirth, and, the well of endless heat breaking forth in mirth, he is received into halsing and singular solace, and the lover is arrayed with the might of the most lovely passage and refreshed in sweet heat.

He joys, truly glistening whiter than snow and redder than a rose; for he is kindled by God’s fire, and going with clearness of conscience he is clad in white. Therefore he is taken up thereto above all others; for in his mind melody abides and sweet plenty of heat tarries; so that not only shall he offer a marrow offering in himself and pay Christ praise in ghostly music, but also he shall stir others to love, so that they hie to give themselves devoutly and perfectly to God; the which vouchsafes to make glad His lovers, cleaving to Him with all their heart, in this exile also. This delight, certain, which he has tasted in loving Jesu, passes all wit and feeling. Truly I can not tell a little point of this joy, for who can tell an untold heat? Who lay bare an infinite sweetness? Certain if I would speak of this joy unable to be told, it seems to me as if I should teem the sea by drops, and spar it all in a little hole of the earth. And no marvel though I, the which scarcely tastes one drop of that same excellence, can not open to you the unmeasuredness of that eternal sweetness, nor that ye that are boisterous in wit and distracted by fleshly thoughts can not receive it; even although ye were full wise of wit and given to God’s services.

Nevertheless if ye were alway busy to savour heavenly things, and if ye studied to be enflamed with God’s love, withouten doubt there should come into you plenteously the liking of that love, the which fulfilling all penetrable parts of thy mind shall drop a wonderful sweetness into it. Truly the fuller ye shall be of charity, the more able ye may suppose yourselves to be receivers of that joy. The nearer truly to God shall they be endlessly that in this time have the more burningly and sweetly loved Him. They, certain, that are empty of God’s love are fulfilled with worldly filth; and so being drawn to vain tales, they seek the delights in outward things that show, forgetting inward goods: whose height is hidden from mortal eye, whiles they in mind fall under worldly solace, even in their rising they vanish from a glorious perpetuity.

Therefore it seems that in the time to come covetousness shall be exiled and charity certainly reign. Contrarily, in this life it is wrought by many, forsooth by nearly all, that covetousness is brought in—yes into the King’s hall; and charity, as if it were consenting to treason, is prisoned and cast out of the kingdom into exile. But yet it has found a dwelling place in the hearts of God’s chosen. It goes from the proud and rests in the meek.

Many wretches are beguiled; the which feign to themselves to love God when they love Him not, trowing that they may be occupied with worldly needs and yet truly enjoy the love of Jesu Christ with sweetness. And they trow they may run about the world, and be contemplative; the which they that fervently love God and have gone into contemplative life deemed impossible. But being ignorant and not imbued with heavenly wisdom but puffed up with the knowledge that they have gotten they suppose wrongly concerning themselves; and they know not as yet how to hold God with love.

Therefore I cry and with desire I say: Salvum me fac Deus, quoniam defecit sanctus, that is to say: ‘Lord make me safe, for thy saint is wanting.’ The true lover fails: the voice of singers is at peace; there appears no heat in true lovers; ilk man goes in his evil way, and the wretchedness he has conceived in heart he ceases not to bring to deed. They waste their days in vanity and their years in haste. Alas the fire of desire has swallowed up the young man and maiden, the suckling also together with the old man.

O good Jesu, it is full good to me to be drawn to Thee, for my soul shall not come into their counsel but sitting all alone to Thee shall I sing. The whiles Thou art praised thou waxest sweet, so that it is not hard but full sweet to continually praise Thee; not bitter but merrier than to be fulfilled with all bodily and worldly delights. Delectable and desirable it is to be in Thy praise; for no marvel is it that all that is dight with so great love savours full sweet.

The lover also burning in this unbodily halsing, his wickedness being cleansed, and all his thoughts that go not unto this end vanished, and desiring to see his Beloved with his ghostly eye, has raised a cry to his Maker, bursting forth from the inner marrow of his affectuous love, as if he would cry from afar. He lifts up his inward voice, the which is not found but in the lover most burning; as far as is lawful in this way. Here I cease: for, because of the unwit and boisterousness of mind understanding, I can not describe this cry, nor yet how mickle it is or how merry to think, feel, bear; though I might in my measure. But to you I could not tell it, nor can not, for I know not how to overcome my wits except that I will say this cry is ghostly song.

Who therefore shall sing to me the ditty of my song and the joys of my desire, with burning of love and heat of my young age, that from songs of fellowly charity I might ransack my substance, and the measure of sweetness in which I was holden worthy might be known to me; if peradventure I might find myself exempted from unhappiness. And I presume not to say that by myself, because I have not yet found that I desire after so that I might rest with sweetness in the solace of my fellows. If forsooth I deemed that cry or song is alway hid from bodily ears—and that dare I well say—would God that I might find a man author of that melody the which, though not in word yet in writing, should sing me my joy, and should draw out notes of love in singing and joying in spirit, the which, in the Name most worthy, I shamed not to say before my love. This one truly should be lovelier to me than gold; and all precious things that are to be had in this exile are not like to him. Beauty of virtue dwells with him and the secrets of love he perfectly ransacks. I would love him truly as my heart, nor is there aught that I would hide from him; for he shall show me the ghostly song that I desire to understand, and shall clearly unfold the melody of my mirth. In which unfolding I shall the more joy, or else quicklier sing, because the burning of love shall be shown to me, and songful joy shall shine before me; also my clamorous thought shall not glide without a praiser, nor shall I labour thus in doubt. Now truly the longings of this heavisom exile cast me down, and heaviness grieving me scarcely suffers me to stand. And when within with unwrought heat I wax warm, without I lurk as it were wan and unhappy and without light.

O my God, to whom I offer devotion without feigning, wilt Thou not think on me in Thy mercy? A wretch I am; therefore I need Thy mercy. And wilt Thou not raise into light the longing that binds me, that I may fitly have that I desire; and the labour in which I am heavy because I trespassed, Thou shalt change into a honey sweet mansion, so that melody may last where heaviness was; and that I may see my Love in His beauty, whom I desire, and worship Him endlessly, held by His touch, for after Him I long.

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